After my trip to Colombia, I can see why it’s becoming a top travel destination! When you visit Colombia, you’ll be amazed at the vibrant colors. There is such rich variety in everything – culture, cuisine, geography, climate… everything! I spent two weeks in three Colombian cities and still haven’t seen half of the country. Bogota, Cartagena, Cali. The planning process for a trip to Colombia appears to be straightforward, but it is not. Getting to know about the local culture is important, and establishing contact with a local prior to going there can help you get the most out of your visit.
These are the ten things you must know if you’re visiting Colombia.
1.Colombia is a Safe Country to Visit
The country was once shunned due to its unsightly connection with cartels and violence. That is no longer the case, and what remains is a vibrant nation with magnificent scenery, pleasant people, and a deep culture. In fact, parts of Bogota, such as the elegant Zona-T that feels like any other cosmopolitan metropolis from the developed world, are reminiscent of cities elsewhere in the world. The Medellin Metro , which has emerged from the shadows of drug cartels in Medellin and has become one of the most successful worldwide, is a masterpiece of construction and engineering.
Violence should not prevent you from going to Colombia. However, it is sensible to be cautious when traveling. Safety measures, such as any other foreign city might provide, are important. Stick to areas that are heavily frequented – on your first trip, consider popular tourist spots or the cities of Colombia. Because Colombia is still grappling with economic gaps, ostentatious riches and branded accessories are best avoided it.
2.It is vital that you comprehend the Colombian Peso.
The local currency is the Colombian Peso (COP$), which has been in use since 1874 and comes in denominations of mil, Spanish for thousand. A cappuccino could cost $5.000 at a restaurant or cafe, which translates to five million colones. The mil is frequently avoided in colloquial speech. Denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000 and 100000 pesos are available on commonly used banknotes.
3. You should utilize credit or debit cards, or automated tellers to get the best rate.
Even better if you have a card with no transaction fee from another country. Citibank cards are excellent for exchange rates at ATMs, which are mostly found in major cities and do not charge additional fees if you have a card. Even though the fee exists, you may still save money using a card for payment or withdrawing cash from an ATM if you don’t have a Citibank card.
4. Make sure you have the right visa before planned travel.
Before you buy a tourist visa to enter Colombia, always check the requirements. For some passport holders from USA, European Union and Canada, no visa is needed for entry; while those who hold United States Visa or Schengen Visa (except transit visa) are granted access without a doubt. If you’re not sure about your country’s status, it is best to visit Migración Colombia’s website or call their customer support number for clarification. They are also responsive to email inquiries.
5. Before you go, check the weather app.
This cannot be overemphasized: every city has a unique climate due to their differing altitudes. For example, Bogota has year-round chilly weather like autumn in NYC while Medellin is slightly warmer and Cartagena is a sunny, tropical coastal town. Dress appropriately for each destination:Cartagena requires a hat, sunglasses, (lots of) sunscreen along with light dresses; whereas in Bogota, you’ll need jeans and scarves as well as sophisticated western wear.
6. How to Travel in Colombia
Traveling by plane is usually the quickest way to travel between cities, and it’s not that costly. To get great discounts, visit LAN’s, Avianca’s, or Copa website. Just like other places in the world, taking public transportation within a city is going save you money compared to other options. In Medellin, they have an excellent metro system that I think you should experience at least once. The Transmilenio is Bogota’s variation of public transport, and it’s a bus rapid transit system. It can be difficult to understand at first, but the locals are always willing to help out if you’re lost.
7. Investing in a Travel Guide Is recommended.
Yes, even if you have already done your homework. And this is because these manuals keep track of all of the trivia and historical facts that they contain, rather than following a specific path. I was astounded by Colombia’s history and learned that my travel guide was actually a good storyteller.
8. To Visit Colombia, You Don’t Have to be Fluent in Spanish
I had an amazing time in Colombia, even though I don’t know much Spanish! Not many people speak English there (especially in Medellin), but some of them do. The people in Colombia are very helpful and patient, so if you need to, you can act out words or write things down on a piece of paper. This came in handy for me when I needed to ask the Transmilenio staff for route numbers in Bogota – they didn’t speak any English.
I recommend signing up to Babbel in order to gain a grasp of the language basics before your trip. This way, you can focus on enjoying yourself while abroad instead of struggling with learning common phrases.
9. Go With an Appetite
Though you can find many familiar international dishes in Colombia, do take the opportunity to sample some of the local cuisine as well. Ajiaco (a chicken soup spiced with Colombian herbs) is a Bogota specialty, as is cazuela de fríjoles (red bean stew). Arepas (flattened maize patties) are commonly consumed for breakfast or lunch, while empanadas (meat- or cheese-filled pastries) make excellent snacks. And if you’re feeling daring, try mondongo–a soup made from slow-cooked diced tripe.
10. Haggling is Accepted
This is especially evident with taxis and street vendors. I bought a necklace from a Bogota street vendor for only $10COP; he had originally quoted me $50COP. You can find them all around Parque Lleras in Medellin, but be sure to haggle when buying sombreros in Cartagena. This should enough for you to get started. Colombia is a beautiful country, and I strongly recommend that you go there on vacation. And, don’t forget one of the most important things – your camera!