10 essential tips for traveling to colombia

10 essential tips for traveling to colombia

This selection of travel tips for Colombia will help you organize your trip to one of the most fascinating countries in the world.

Known for a unique culture, dreamlike landscapes and vibrant cities as well as villages where time seems to have stopped and a gastronomy that we are sure, will surprise you, Colombia is the perfect destination to enjoy one of the most unforgettable trips you can imagine.

Based on the experience we had during our trip to Colombia, visiting incredible places such as Bogota, Villa de Leyva, Barichara, Medellin, Guatapé, the Eje Cafetero, the Tatacoa Desert, San Agustin and San Andres and Providencia, among many others, we wanted to give you what we believe are the 10 essential travel tips for Colombia. Let’s start!

1. What is the best time to travel to Colombia?

Although we could say that any time is good to travel to Colombia, depending on the area or areas you want to visit, it may be more suitable to do it during some months or others.

Despite that and understanding that you want to make a route through Colombia that includes several areas, we leave you a general summary of what are the best times to travel to the country.

High season: this includes the months of December to February and is characterized by good weather in most of the country, including the idyllic islands of San Andres and Providencia.

Keep in mind that during these months, especially the Christmas period and the first days of January, prices tend to be higher, especially in accommodations.

Mid season: the months of March to September are also good months to travel to Colombia although in cities like Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena de Indias, the months of April and May are usually rainy.

Low season: October and November are usually the least crowded months of the year due to the rains that are usually present in most of the country. Although this is not generalized, they are the months with the least travelers and therefore, the months with the cheapest prices in accommodations.

2. Entry requirements

If you have Spanish nationality and you are traveling to Colombia as a tourist for less than 90 days, you are exempt from visa requirements. If your stay exceeds three months, you must apply for a visa at the Colombian Consulate. Remember that you must carry your passport to enter Colombia.

Another important thing is to always consult official sources, so before making your trip to Colombia we recommend you to check the pages of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the page of the Embassy to confirm and check the requirements for entry to Colombia.

3. Safety when traveling to Colombia

Contrary to what it may seem, traveling to Colombia is safe, especially if you do it as a tourist and even if you are doing a route through Colombia on your own.

Keep in mind that in most cases, the problems of insecurity in the country, are not related to tourism and also, in many cases, use is made of topics without basis, which do not go beyond the television series and media headlines, with little credibility.

With this we do not want to say that Colombia is the safest country in the world, but after our experience, we can say that insecurity is little or nothing is felt at the tourist level.

What vaccinations do I need to travel to Colombia?

Initially no vaccination is necessary to travel to Colombia but it is highly recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever if you are going to travel to Tayrona Park or jungle areas.

Remember that one of the most important recommendations in health matters is to always visit your doctor before making any decision regarding vaccinations or any other medical aspect.

Another thing to consider when traveling to Colombia is possible altitude sickness, especially in cities like Bogota, which is at 2630 meters. Initially this altitude should not be a problem, but visiting places like the Cerro de Monserrate, which is at 3170 meters, it is advisable to do so when you have been in the city for a couple of days and your body has adapted.

In addition to everything mentioned above, it is very important to hire the best travel insurance, to travel with peace of mind and above all, to have the best coverage in case you need it.

We always travel insured with Mondo, with whom we take a fully adequate insurance to the needs that we are going to have during the trip. By contracting your insurance with Mondo here, just for being a Viajeros Callejeros reader, you get a 5% discount.

Due to the current health situation all Mondo insurances include medical assistance in case of coronavirus infection. Also included is the extra stay you may need in case of quarantine infection and of course, the test in case it is necessary.

4. Changing money in Colombia

The currency in Colombia is the Colombian Peso (COP) and its current value is 1 Euro = 4275COP. Please note that in some places you will find the name of the currency abbreviated as $.

Something important when traveling to Colombia is to know that although you read otherwise, the use of the card is quite widespread, except for more remote places like the island of Providencia, where it is important to carry cash to pay especially in restaurants.

In spite of what we tell you, it is also important to carry cash in the rest of the places you visit to be able to pay for small things or pay in places where you cannot pay with a card.

Another important thing is to know that the automatic teller machines of the banks in Colombia have limits when withdrawing money and sometimes this amount can be insufficient. In case this happens to you, you can try again to withdraw money in the same ATM, as it usually allows you 2-3 times, or go to another bank.

  • Banco Bogotá – maximum 600000COP (+-162 euros)
  • Banco Colombia – maximum 600000COP (+-162 euros)
  • BBVA – maximum 300000COP (+-80 euros)
  • Banco Agrario – maximum 780000COP (+-210 euros)

In addition to this you will be charged a commission that always depends on your bank of origin. To make this amount disappear or be minimal, we always recommend to use the Revolut card – you get 10 euros for free! and the N26 card, which are the ones we use, they are free and will save you a lot of money.

5. Internet in Colombia

Having internet in Colombia is easy, you just need to buy a SIM card from Claro or Movistar, which are the most recommended companies.

We decided for Claro, as we were told that it had more coverage and more plans to choose from and indeed it was so, except on the island of Providencia which is better Movistar.

In case your trip lasts less than 30 days and you need more data, you will have to recharge the card but if your trip is longer than 30 days you will have to buy another one since the maximum duration of the SIM card is 1 month.

As you can see having internet when traveling to Colombia is very easy since you have several options of plans to choose from and you will find Claro stores in all cities and towns as well as at the airport.

Wifi in Colombia

Another alternative is to use the wifi in accommodations and restaurants. Although our experience was not excellent in this aspect, since in many occasions the network was not fast, it did help us to not spend so much data and do internet searches or answer emails.

In addition, in some towns and cities you will find open networks, especially in tourist areas and important squares, to which you can connect and save a lot of data on your card.

SIM card before traveling

In case you do not want to complicate your life and want to have internet from the moment you land, a highly recommended option is to buy a Holafly card.

These are valid for 15 days and have 6GB of data at 4G and unlimited 2G speed. You can buy it through this link with a 5% discount for being our reader, and they will send it to your home in two working days.

6. How to start the trip to Colombia?

The first and most important thing before traveling to Colombia is to book in advance flights, accommodation and transportation, in case you are going to rent a car.

Logically you can go as you go, but especially if you are traveling in high season, it is highly recommended to review these points some time before to have more options and also better prices.

Although there are many route options, the most common is to enter through Bogota or Medellin and from there continue the trip. Whichever option you choose, we recommend using this flight search engine to find the best options and the best prices.

Once you have the flights booked, the next important point is the accommodation. Although in all tourist places you will find options for all tastes and budgets, there are places like the Tatacoa Desert where there is less infrastructure and it is highly recommended to book in advance.

In this case we recommend you to check this hotel search engine, where you will find the best prices and the best options.

With your flight and accommodation booked, the next important point to pay special attention to is transportation for traveling around Colombia.

We used public transport, buses and cabs, to move between many of the most touristic points although for areas such as the Eje Cafetero and the Tatacoa Desert we opted to rent a car, as they were complicated areas to move around by public transport, as there are few options, and we wanted to be free to move around without being aware of schedules.

If you also want to rent a car we recommend you to look at this car rental search engine where you will find options at the best prices.

And finally, before traveling to Colombia, it is highly recommended to check which are the excursions you want to do in the country to book them in advance and ensure a place, especially if your trip is in high season or you are going to do one of the most popular tours.

7. Route through Colombia

Although as we mentioned in the previous point there are thousands of routes you can do in Colombia, we are going to recommend you the one we did, which includes the essential places to see in Colombia and that you can shorten or extend depending on the days you have available.

If you have less days available you can follow this route through Colombia in 14 and 21 days.

Assuming that you will fly to Bogota, in the city we recommend you to spend a couple of days following the routes of Bogota in one day and Bogota in two days that we did and that will allow you to see all the most important places to visit in Bogota.

In addition, from the city we recommend two of the best excursions such as visiting the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira and visiting the Guatavita Lagoon, which is one of the most magical places in the country where you can learn and feel the fascinating legend of El Dorado.

After these two visits we recommend you to go to Villa de Leyva, one of the 17 Colombian towns declared of cultural interest at national level, where in one day you can follow this list of things to see and do in Villa de Leyva and then go to Barichara, one of the most impressive places in the country, which we are sure, will not disappoint you and will allow you, during the days you stay, to go back in time while you do not stop enjoying the things to see and do in Barichara that we propose.

The next stage of the trip is to go to Cartagena de Indias, one of the most incredible cities in the country, where we advise you to stay at least two days, enough time to make this route through Cartagena de Indias in one day and this one through Cartagena de Indias in two days that will allow you to know all the essential places to visit in Cartagena de Indias and surprise yourself enjoying some of the most beautiful corners of the country.

After these days we recommend you to continue on the coast and go to Santa Marta, a small colonial city, where you can enjoy the passage of time in a more relaxed way than in Cartagena de Indias and make a one-day route that includes some of the best things to see and do in Santa Marta.

And being in this area of the country it is impossible not to visit the Tayrona Park, one of the natural areas that you can not miss when traveling to Colombia, which will be at this stage of the trip, the perfect place to spend a couple of days relaxing on postcard beaches.

The next stage will take you to Medellin, another of the cities that we recommend not to miss, where you can stay a couple of days doing this route through Medellin in one day and this Medellin in two days with which you can meet most of the places to visit in Medellin essential as the Plaza de Botero, the Comuna 13, up in the Metrocable San Javier, visit the Museum of Antioquia, Berrio Park or San Antonio Park, among many others.

After visiting the city our proposal is to take a day trip to enjoy the things to do in Santa Fe de Antioquia, the oldest municipality in the region, where you can enjoy a colonial city that seems to have been anchored in time.

The next stop on the route will be one of the most colorful places in the country, known for its sockets, where in addition to visiting the Piedra del Peñol you can enjoy all the most recommended things to do in Guatapé on a one or two day excursion from Medellín.

After all the destinations you have visited it is impossible not to think about doing a route through the Eje Cafetero, one of the most incredible and visited places in Colombia.

Although the area can be covered in 2-3 days, whenever you can, we recommend you to extend your stay a little bit to visit the most famous towns in the area as well as trekking through the Cocora Valley, which is undoubtedly one of the great things to do in the Eje Cafetero.

In addition to all of the above, when traveling to the Eje Cafetero we recommend you to slow down, if you have not already done so during your trip, and enjoy the most of this place that we are sure will fascinate and surprise you in equal parts.

The next stage of the trip will be to go to the Tatacoa Desert, one of the most brutal landscapes of the country, where we recommend you to spend a couple of days to be able to do all the most impressive things to see and do in the Tatacoa Desert such as touring the Red Desert, a place that will leave you speechless.

And arrived at this geographical point of the country, it is impossible not to think about going to San Agustin, one of the most important places to learn about the history and culture of Colombia.

Here we recommend you to stay three days to enjoy all the most impressive things to see and do in San Agustín such as the San Agustín Archaeological Park, the Alto de las Piedras, the Chaquira, the Purutal, the Tablón, the Pelota or the Strait of the Magdalena River, among others.

And after this most complete route, traveling to Colombia should always include at the end a few days of total relaxation and nothing better for this than going to San Andres or Providencia, two islands located on the northeast coast of Colombia, just 150 kilometers from Nicaragua, which are two perfect jewels in which to spend the last days of the trip.

Another option could be, which is also the one we chose, to visit both islands and discover all the things to see and do in San Andres and Providencia in about a week.

8. Transportation, one of the aspects to take into account when traveling to Colombia

Another of the most important aspects to pay attention to when traveling to Colombia is the transportation you will use to travel around the country.

Although there are many options and all are valid, we recommend you to make a combination of them, depending on which is the best in each situation, to make the most of the time and have the necessary freedom at all times to make routes that include all the most important places.

Airplane: this is undoubtedly the best transportation in Colombia to cover long distances. Keep in mind that although the price is usually higher than the bus or rental car, with the plane you will save a lot of time and also, if you book in advance, prices are usually adjusted.

In this case we recommend you to carefully review all the options available, as there are several airlines operating in Colombia and each of them has different prices and routes. Among the best known are EasyFly, Satena (the only one that makes the route from San Andres to Providencia), LATAM, Avianca and VivaAir.

We leave you a list of the ones we used with the routes we took and prices, always taking into account that we booked several months in advance.

EasyFly:

  • Bucaramanga – Cartagena de Indias – 217000COP (one way)
  • Medellin – Pereira – 192000COP (one way)
  • Pereira – Bogota and Bogota – Neiva – 229000COP (one way).

Satena:

  • Pitalito – Bogota – 210000COP (one way)
  • San Andres – Providencia – 620600COP (round trip).

LATAM:

  • Bogota – San Andres – 389000COP (one way).

Avianca:

  • San Andres – Bogota – 341000COP (one way).

VivaAir:

  • Medellin – Santa Marta – 86000COP (one way)

Bus: this is another of the most suitable means of transportation to travel around Colombia, especially to cover relatively short distances, which will not take you more than 2-3 hours. Keep in mind that buses also make much longer trips, although in this case we only recommend it if your budget is low or if you have a lot of time.

The best known companies for long trips are Coonorte, Rápido Ochoa, Expreso Brasilia and Expreso Bolivariano. We recommend you to call or check their websites to see the routes and prices of each of them.

Keep in mind that in the Colombia travel guide you can find all the options on how to go to all the tourist places in the country.

Cab: this is another of the most recommended options, especially if you want to travel comfortably and save time in addition to making transfers in a more direct way because in Colombia it is very common to have to link several buses to go from one town to another.

The option of Uber also exists although it must be remembered that it is not legal in Colombia and if you stop the police can requisition the car and leave you without transportation.

We used cabs on several occasions, even for journeys of several hours and although we paid much more than if we had gone by bus, we saved a lot of time, something that when traveling to Colombia with few days, is also appreciated.

These were the routes we did with the prices we paid:

  • Bogota – Zipaquira Salt Cathedral – 160000COP (one way).
  • Zipaquirá – Laguna de la Guatavita – Villa de Leyva – 280000COP (one way)
  • Villa de Leyva – Barichara – 400000COP (one way)
  • Barichara – Bucaramanga – 330000COP (one way)
  • Santa Marta – Tayrona National Park – 120000COP (one way)
  • Pitalito – San Agustin – 80000COP (one way)

Another important thing to know is that in Colombia cabs, to leave the big cities like Bogota, must fill in some forms with the data of the clients and they only have 1-2 every month, since it is a very expensive procedure for them. This makes it not too easy to find a cab that can make a relatively long trip, leaving the city so it is advisable to talk to the accommodation several days before and they will find you a cab that has this form. In addition, booking it with the hotel is also a matter of security, so we recommend you always do it this way.

Rental car: this is undoubtedly the most appropriate transportation to move around large areas, such as the Eje Cafetero, where there is not much infrastructure and the one that exists does not have extensive schedules.

We opted to rent a car in two stages of the trip and the truth is that, after the experience, it was the best option.

Here are the zones and what we paid in each one of them.

  • Eje Cafetero: 8 days for 343 euros (we picked up and returned the car at Pereira airport).
  • Desierto de la Tatacoa: 4 days for 125 euros (we picked up and returned the car at Neiva airport).

Excursions: last but not least, excursions are another of the most suitable ways to travel around Colombia if you do not want to rent a car, you want comfort and above all, to know all the most important facts about the country, as all excursions are guided.

9. San Andres and Providencia

If there are two paradisiacal and touristic places in Colombia those are San Andres and Providencia, two islands located very close to Nicaragua that are two jewels in which to get lost between postcard beaches and impossibly blue waters.

Although San Andres is the best known, as it is the closest, more complete in terms of infrastructure and also more affordable in transportation, as there are direct flights from the mainland, if you can only visit one island, it is more advisable to opt for Providencia, as it retains much of its culture, which has remained unchanged due to the little overcrowding and how relatively complicated it is to get to the island.

Although both islands can be visited in 2-3 days, we recommend you always spend a few days more to enjoy the characteristic tranquility that defines them, spend a few days relaxing at the end of the trip and take some of the best pictures of Colombia.

10. Gastronomy

Without a second’s hesitation, one of the best things to do when traveling to Colombia is to enjoy its gastronomy, one of the best and most delicious in the world.

Although it is impossible to name all the dishes and products of the country, in this post we want to leave you a selection of some of the dishes that you can not miss and that we are sure, will be the perfect complement to your trip.

  • Arepas: this is undoubtedly one of the most famous and characteristic dishes of Colombia. It consists of fried corn dough that accompanies any dish you can imagine or in many occasions, it is also eaten individually or filled with egg or cheese.
  • Bandeja Paisa: this dish is one of the most caloric dishes in the country and also one of the most popular among travelers and locals. Although its ingredients may vary depending on where you eat it, normally the dish has rice, beans, meat and chorizo, fried egg and avocado.
  • Lechona: this stew is made with pork and chickpeas and is usually served with arepas.
  • Ajiaco: this soup is one of the most traditional and is made with potatoes and corn to which avocado and rice are added.
  • Cazuela de mariscos (seafood casserole): a dish made with vegetables and seafood such as shrimp, lobster and different fish.
  • Patacones: this side dish is one of the most typical in the country and is made with plantains, which are fried, mashed and fried a second time and is usually accompanied with a sauce.
  • Aborrajados: made with plantain slices that are stuffed with cheese and then fried.
  • Rondón: fish and seafood soup, also made with coconut milk, typical of the coast.

More tips for traveling to Colombia

In addition to everything mentioned above, we want to leave you other tips for traveling to Colombia that we believe will be very useful before and during your trip.

  • Keep in mind that to travel about 40 kilometers by road can take more than 30 minutes, so we recommend renting a car but always for short distances, such as in the Eje Cafetero, you will have to travel a maximum distance of 50-60 kilometers.
  • Another important thing is to adapt to the Colombian rhythm to enjoy yourself to the fullest. This is something that you will perceive as soon as you land and it is important to get used to it so as not to feel at all times that the country is going too slowly.
  • Remember to review this list of tips for traveling to Colombia in detail before you travel so that you don’t miss anything important.
  • We are sure that if you have decided to make Colombia your destination, you will have read or heard a lot of things about security in the country. This is a very extensive topic, so we recommend you to read the post safety in Colombia to see what was our experience and how after traveling 46 days in the country, we said goodbye to a country that gave us unforgettable moments and at no time unsafe.
  • Moving around the country is not exactly easy, since in many occasions you have many options to choose from and depending on the one you choose, it will take more or less time to get to your destination. To know the most popular options we recommend you to check our travel guide, where you will find a day by day log, which includes articles on how to go to each of the destinations we visited.
  • In Colombia the voltage is 110V, frequency 60Hz and plugs type A, B.

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