The whole lot you could know earlier than visiting Colombia, a rustic you would possibly by no means wish to depart

Whether or not you’re drawn by its beguiling coastlines, untamed jungle or high-altitude nationwide parks, Colombia is assured to dazzle.

After many years of affiliation with armed battle and drug cartels, this South American nation has moved effectively past these darkish many years, rising from that chapter of historical past as one of many continent’s most thrilling and welcoming locations to discover. 

Vacationers to Colombia ought to put together for a visit that can depart them wishing they by no means needed to return residence, due to the nation’s remarkably heat and pleasant folks and uniquely Latin spirit. Learn by means of the next suggestions to make sure a secure and really unforgettable journey to Colombia.  

Colombia is larger than you assume

An enormous mistake that even seasoned vacationers have made is to attempt to pack an excessive amount of into a visit round Colombia. Earlier than making an attempt to squeeze each final nook of the nation right into a two-week itinerary, forged your eyes over the map. Sure, Colombia is about twice the scale of France or Texas – and no, you received’t give you the option see all the pieces on only one journey. 

As a substitute, stick with exploring one part of the nation, and exploring it effectively: spend three weeks bouncing between sun-soaked, Caribbean seashores, or heading from Medellín deep into the Zona Cafetera. Your journey will match Colombia’s attribute tempo: sluggish and pleasurable. 

Forge new connections in your subsequent journey with the most recent recommendation from our weekly publication.

Home flights are reasonably priced and fast

Should you’re nonetheless planning to cram as many locations as doable into a brief journey, Colombia’s wealth of low-cost airways presents essentially the most environment friendly approach of getting round (although you bear in mind the elevated carbon footprint of touring by airplane). Whereas nothing fairly compares with the cultural expertise of taking a regional bus (the place you’ll be “entertained” by deafening music for the period), more and more low-cost fares can be found for home flights. 

Don’t be fooled by headline costs, which usually don’t embody checked baggage. Peak touring seasons (December by means of mid-January, Semana Santa and June by means of August) will add a premium and might promote out quickly, so guide prematurely if visiting throughout these months.

You’ll most likely expertise all 4 seasons in a single journey to Colombia © nuedesign / Shutterstock

Put together for unpredictable climate

Whether or not you’re hitting up the Caribbean coast or heading to the rainier climes of the capital, Bogotá, you possibly can count on to expertise a full array of climate circumstances. Whereas Colombia formally has two distinct seasons – the dry season (December by means of February and July by means of August) and the wet season (April, Could, and September by means of November) – due to the nation’s variation in altitudes and ecosystems, you’ll most likely expertise all 4 seasons in a single journey. 

As a rule, the Caribbean coast is scorching and humid, whereas Bogotá and the broader Andean areas obtain a surfeit of rain. Come ready with loads of layers, together with a heat, easy-to-pack rain jacket, and also you’ll be primed to adapt to regardless of the climate would possibly throw at you. 

Just a little Spanish will get you a great distance

For a rustic so lengthy enveloped by violent battle, Colombia at this time is a remarkably open and welcoming vacation spot for worldwide vacationers. Wherever you’re, it’s simple to strike up a dialog with the proprietor of a restaurant, your taxi driver or only a native having fun with the sunshine in a metropolis plaza. And so they’ll be delighted should you do. 

Figuring out greater than the fundamentals of Spanish can go a great distance, spurring participating, fascinating conversations about Colombian tradition, soccer, historical past and politics. Colombian Spanish, notably in Bogotá and Medellín, is taken into account one of many best to grasp in Latin America, so take advantage of reasonably priced language faculties in each cities to get some apply in earlier than you head out into the remainder of the nation.  

You’ll discover a robust navy presence

When touring in rural elements of Colombia, it’s not unusual to return throughout street checkpoints staffed by military personnel, who’ll usually ask to see your paperwork earlier than waving you in your approach. In areas not too long ago opened to tourism following the battle, you would possibly even spot tanks and different navy autos stationed alongside roads. 

Whereas it might sound intimidating, the sturdy navy presence across the nation is there for the protection of the native folks – and also you. Be well mannered and have the proper paperwork (both your precise passport or a photocopy of the primary web page and entry stamp) with you, and also you’ll hardly ever have a problem. 

A colorful chiva bus pulls into a street in Yolombó, Antioquia, Colombia
Main buses and home flights run on a schedule, however don’t count on punctuality when taking rural

Don’t count on punctuality

Like a lot of Latin America, Colombian tradition isn’t identified for its strict adherence to the clock, and a punctuality-obsessed traveler is usually a disillusioned one. “Colombian time” is virtually its personal time zone, and it’s best to depart any notions of timeliness at residence. To keep away from getting pissed off, loosen up and embrace being versatile – actually, the one approach to take care of the usually laid-back Colombian angle towards life, the universe and just about all the pieces.

Whereas large, interregional buses and flights do have a tendency to go away on time, tight schedules don’t get hold of in lots of different contexts. Should you’re making an appointment with a Colombian individual or ready for a rural colectivo to depart, convey a guide as you would possibly effectively be ready as much as an hour past the agreed time. 

Drug-taking and speaking about that Netflix present are large no-nos

If there’s one approach to annoy Colombians, it’s to get onto a subject that many Western vacationers, regardless of Colombian’s makes an attempt to dissuade them, proceed to affiliate with the nation: medicine. Unlawful substances are a taboo topic in Colombia, and regardless of (or extra probably, due to) the nation’s historical past, few Colombians take them. Residents of Medellín, specifically, are fed up with town’s affiliation with drug cartels and with vacationers who go there to make use of cocaine, which is illegitimate and will see you moving into a variety of bother if caught. 

When touring in Colombia, don’t point out Narcos, both. Colombians are pissed off with the Netflix present’s portrayal of the nation and what they see because the exaltation of a mass assassin. Present some respect and keep away from the various Pablo Escobar excursions, too. Chatting to native folks about their experiences throughout the drug-war years is prone to be much more informative and correct. 

Taxis will aid you get round safely

Whereas security is now not the identical overwhelming concern it as soon as was, taking taxis when touring between neighborhoods in large cities throughout Colombia is a good selection. Wandering round at night time, notably after you’ve had a shot of heady aguardiente or two, is usually an invite to opportunist thieves. 

Taxis are extraordinarily reasonably priced and comparatively painless if utilizing a ride-share app, equivalent to Cabify or Uber. Hailing a taxi can depart you open to scams or worse, so calling for a cab (or asking your resort to) is beneficial. At all times verify the worth or examine that the taxi has a working meter earlier than getting into the automobile. 

Colombia is more and more welcoming to homosexual vacationers

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Colombia in early Eighties, and the primary same-sex wedding ceremony was carried out in 2013 – proof that this nation has a few of the extra progressive attitudes towards LGBTQI+ rights in Latin America. Bogotá has a well-established homosexual scene, with bars and nightlife principally present in Chapinero, one of many metropolis’s most dynamic neighborhoods. Some lodgings and eating places are starting to promote themselves as gay-friendly.

Regardless of its progressive legal guidelines, a lot of Colombian society stays traditionalist, and plenty of same-sex {couples} nonetheless really feel unsafe displaying affection in public. For extra info particularly for LGBTQI+ vacationers, try Guia Gay Colombia

A female cyclist rides through the Paramo in the Andes Mountains of Boyacá, Colombia, South America
You may discover Colombia’s many areas and climates extensively, but it surely’s greatest to remain on well-established routes © Brent Olson / Getty Photographs

Touring is secure – however stick with the crushed observe

Colombia has skilled an about-face prior to now few many years, shedding its title as one among Latin America’s most harmful nations and coming into its personal as a worthy journey vacation spot. 

All of it comes all the way down to the history-making peace accords signed in 2016 between the Colombian authorities and the FARC, which, after 5 many years of battle, have led to many rural elements of the nation lastly shifting from no-go areas into welcoming locations for guests. 

Nevertheless, it nonetheless isn’t sensible to go too far off the crushed path. Some rural areas stay harmful due to their hyperlinks with neo-paramilitary and drug-trafficking teams, notably alongside the borders with Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador. Earlier than touring wherever uncommon, at all times analysis the state of affairs on the bottom in addition to your authorities’s journey advisories. 

Don’t “dar papaya”

Whereas security has improved considerably, it’s best to at all times “no dar papaya.” This pleasant idiom – which actually interprets to “don’t give papaya” – means it’s best to at all times maintain your wits about you, staying alert to those that would make the most of you. In apply, this implies following commonsense pointers: don’t wander down darkish, empty streets at night time, don’t head out into neighborhoods you don’t know with out checking their security first and don’t flap concerning the metropolis with an costly digicam on show.

Journey insurance coverage is crucial as a result of muggings are sadly nonetheless a problem in cities equivalent to Bogota, Cali and Medellín; it’s best to by no means resist if somebody tries to rob you. Distraction methods are these used most fruitfully by would-be thieves, so at all times be cautious of individuals coming as much as you on the street or being requested to indicate your cash to scammers posing as law enforcement officials.

If issues do go unsuitable, head to the closest police station instantly to report the crime. The police will put collectively a report and offer you a duplicate, which you’ll must make an insurance coverage declare. 

A palenquera woman in brightly colored dress selling fruits in Cartagena, Colombia
You may count on a excessive degree of service at Colombian bars, eating places and retailers © andresr / Getty Photographs

Tipping isn’t compulsory, however it’s appreciated

Eating out in Colombia is extraordinarily reasonably priced in comparison with most locations in Europe or North America. If you go to pay the invoice at fancier or extra upmarket eating places, it’s probably you’ll be requested if you wish to embody the propina (tip), usually round 10% of the price of the meal. 

Service in eating places, cafes and bars throughout Colombia is mostly significantly better than in lots of different elements of South America, so except you had a horrible expertise, take into account paying the tip as a present of appreciation. 

Don’t let this nation’s historical past scare you away

Colombia has come leaps and bounds for the reason that darkish days of the Eighties and Nineteen Nineties, and its residents are greater than excited to indicate you their lovely and splendidly numerous nation. The most important mistake you can also make is to let Netflix or historic newspaper headlines scare you away: it is a nation that virtually each traveler can’t assist however fall in love with. The most important hazard when visiting Colombia? Discovering your self by no means wanting to go away.

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