Colombia Travel Tips

Traveling to a new country is always exciting, and we would argue that Colombia is one of those countries where it’s as exciting as it gets. As South America is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination, Colombia is getting its deserved spotlight. There’s so much diversity in culture, and geography, and historical and natural wonders.

If traveling to Colombia is on your mind, we hope our tips can help you. We hope we can nudge you into considering it if it’s not yet!


Be aware of the varying climate

We’re not kidding when we say that Colombia has a diverse geography. Though tropical — meaning it doesn’t have four seasons, and the weather in one spot is relatively stable throughout the year, Colombia varies very noticeably in altitude. And with varying altitudes come varying climates and weather.

For example, Bogota, which is above sea level, has pretty chilly temperatures all year round. Medellin is somewhat in the middle, while Cartagena boasts sunny tropical weather.

If you’re planning to have multi-city travels, be aware of these differences in temperature and pack your clothes accordingly. You probably wouldn’t freeze to ice in Bogota, but wearing shorts there like how you would in Cartagena would not be as pleasant, to say the least.


Prepare your travel documents well

Traveling to a new country takes a lot of research, and as you may already know by reading this article, there are many factors to take into account. But there’s one thing you can’t forget: your adventures, no matter how well-researched, can’t start if you don’t have the documents you need.

For example, if you’re a citizen of a country that doesn’t fall into the visa-exempt policy of Colombia, you will need to apply for an e-visa. To get your visa accepted, you must fill out the form and submit supporting documents, including a valid electronic photo.

Make sure you’re applying well on time to avoid not having the necessary documents. Don’t let bureaucracy ruin your traveling mood!


Learn how to get around

As is the case in many places around the world, the most affordable way to get around is on public transport. Medellin, for example, has a good metro system, which ensures you can get around quickly and reliably. While it doesn’t enjoy the luxury of underground trains, Bogota has quite an elaborate rapid transit bus system. Other towns usually have their own local options such as buses. Taxis are also an option, but do you know the best options in any given city — apps or hailing on the street? What about the meter?

For intercity travel, flights can be a pretty reliable and affordable friend. Besides planes, long-distance buses are available and affordable.


Follow basic safety rules

There’s a stereotype of Colombia being dangerous, with stories about crime, down to murders, trafficking, and drug cartels. While we can’t deny these problems, Colombia is considered safe to visit. People do live their ordinary and peaceful lives, too, and so can you if you understand how to keep your safety.

For example, protect your personal belongings. Do not show it off, have it within your eyesight or keep it in a safe place. Do not carry it in a way that would make it easy for it to be snatched, like on the side facing the street. Only hire taxis you can trust, preferably on apps. Always research in advance and be aware of your surroundings during travels.

On the topic of drugs: avoid them. While drug tourism is, unfortunately a thing, it’s proven to trip people up with problems with people ranging from the police to local criminals. Drugs are also taboo. The conflicts related to it have taken a toll on some people’s lives.

There’s a saying in Colombia: no dar papaya, meaning “don’t give a papaya”. It means that you shouldn’t make yourself a target. While we agree that criminals are to blame for the crime, we would also say that it’s not the blame that matters — we should try our best so it doesn’t happen.


Cultural sensitivities go a long way

This is a good rule for everywhere you go, but especially if you’re from somewhere that is starkly different from Colombia culturally, reading up on how to be culturally sensitive can make your travels smooth and help you get an authentic Colombian experience. After all, people would love to help others if they’re nice to each other.

First, if you don’t speak Spanish, learn some phrases to help you be more polite. Some hello, thank you, and goodbye won’t hurt. Understanding how to ask for and take directions would also help. In general, travel-related vocabulary can’t hurt.

Even if you’re already a Spanish speaker, you may notice that the local dialect and manner of speaking differs from yours.

Speaking of language — Colombians can tend to be more formal. They greet each other even for short conversations.

On that note: be patient. It’s not just for conversations, either. The pace of life here can be slower for some people. You’re here to travel, so don’t rush and enjoy yourself!

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