Colombia Travel Guide: Everything to plan your trip
Are you thinking of visiting Colombia? Well, you should! Let this Colombia Travel Guide help you plan your trip, prepare properly, and also inspire you to finally book the trip! I loved Colombia so much that I just had to write this Colombia Travel Guide to help others plan their trips!
Colombia Travel Guide
Colombia is South America’s newest travel hot spot, in the last few years tourism to the country has exploded. Colombia’s old stigma that once plagued the country is fading and now more and more people are open to the idea of traveling this beautiful country. Colombia offers some really breathtaking experiences that are now set to rival those of its neighbors to the south.
With world-class coffee plantations, amazing beaches to the north and west, amazing food, rich history, and people so friendly you will instantly fall in love (just like I did!)
I traveled Colombia for over 8 weeks and left with a desire to return soon. Speaking with hundreds of other travelers from all over the world left me with the same answer over and over…. Colombia is amazing! With something for everyone, it’s no wonder every traveler has Colombia in their sights. So here’s everything you need to know before you go in my Colombia Travel Guide!
Topics included in this Colombia Travel Guide:
- Visa and entry requirements
- Currency & ATMs
- The Weather
- Dangers and Safety
- What things cost
- Daily budgets
- Best places to visit
- Best things to do
Visa and entry requirements
The first and most important thing in any Colombia Travel Guide is how to get into the country!
There are 98 countries that do not require a visa to enter Colombia. These include the UK, all European Union passport holders, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia.
When entering Colombia it is a requirement to have proof of onward travel. By land this rule is not overly enforced, however by air most airlines will NOT let you board the plane without proof of onward travel. This means proof of you leaving Colombia either by land, air, or sea. You can book a fake flight ticket for free using returnflights.net, however, please do so at your own risk.
Canadian citizens must pay 180,000 COP to enter Colombia. This is simply due to Canada’s strict and costly entry fees for Colombian citizens.
Currencies and ATMs
Colombia uses Colombian Pesos, aka COP. This currency is used throughout the country and is much preferred over USD (unlike many other South American countries). At the time of writing this (April 2018) $1 USD is worth $2,800 COP.
ATMs are widely available around the country even in smaller towns. For free withdrawals use the Banco de Colombia atm’s, these ATMs use the Colombian flag as their logo (please check your own bank for overseas withdrawal fee’s). The maximum withdrawal limit is 600,000 COP per transaction at these ATMs.
EFTPOS (or debit/credit card) is available in larger cities like Bogota and Medellin however only at larger department stores, supermarkets, large hostels, and fancy hotels. On most occasions, a charge is added when using EFTPOS (3-5%)
Weather in Colombia
Due to Colombia’s northern location in South America, it has no clear seasons. The average temperatures in Colombia don’t change that drastically because of seasons. Instead, they change depending on where you are in Colombia due to the altitude. The altitude tends to change the weather a lot more than the actual change of seasons. The city of Medellin is often referred to as “the city of eternal Spring” for its constant Spring-like weather.
On Colombia’s Caribbean coast, temperatures are hot all year round, however, suffer from tropical rains.
When deciding when to visit Colombia, the main weather condition to consider is the rain! During the summer months (June, July, August) it rains the most, and then in winter the least (December, January, February.)
Spring (March, April, May) – March signals the beginning of the rainy season. By May, Colombia receives on average 17 rain days a month!
Summer (June, July, August) – Summer in Colombia is the middle of the wet season so make sure you back your jacket and umbrella!
Autumn (September, October, November) – By the middle of Autumn the rainy season is gone and things keep drying up until December.
Winter (December, January, February) – Ahh winter at last! Winter is the dryest time in Colombia and as some say, the best time to visit.
Regardless of the weather, Colombia is a beautiful place to visit all year round! I visited in the months of August and September and still had an amazing time with many beautiful days!
Dangers and Safety in Colombia
Although Colombia is relatively safe, common problems such as pickpocketing are something to watch out for, especially in the larger cities. Other common crimes include robberies (usually during the night), currency exchange scams, and police corruption.
Please note that although some small amounts of drugs are decriminalized in Colombia, this rule generally does not apply to tourists and “on the spot fines” are usually given (however more severe penalties can apply.)
It is also required in Colombia to carry your passport or a copy on you at all times. During my stay, friends of mine received “on the spot fines” for not carrying theirs. This fine was instead of being escorted to immigration.
During my stay in Bogota, Bailey and I were robbed at knifepoint at the main plaza in La Candelaria. That being said, I would like to mention this robbery was in no way violent and happened at 11 pm (a time we should not have been walking around in a quiet area). I found the rest of Colombia to be super safe and had no other problems except this one incident.
General safety rules apply in Colombia. So keep your wits about you, don’t go out at night alone, don’t show off valuables, and only carry on you what you are willing to lose. Plan routes and directions carefully to avoid walking through unsafe neighborhoods. As a general rule, the tourist areas where hostels and hotels are located are safest, but if you venture to a different area do some research first or consider going on a guided tour.
This Colombia Travel Guide is not meant to scare you off, just be cautious and I’m sure you will be fine. We felt very safe during our time in Colombia!
What things cost in Colombia
Dorm rooms in hostels range from 20,000-40,000 COP. Private Rooms start at 60,000 COP, however, this is usually for something in a smaller town. All the places I stayed at included free wifi and some had a free continental breakfast. Many hostels and hotels in Colombia book up on weekends and during peak season. This is largely due to Colombia’s tourism infrastructure not being able to keep up with the sudden demand.
Local street foods like empanadas can be found for 1,000-2,000 COP. Meals at cheap local restaurants start at 8,000 COP. These meals usually come with a choice of meat and rice, beans, and fried plantain. If you’re after western food then expect to pay at least 20,000 COP. Beers at hostels usually cost 4,000COP and at bars 8,000COP. Fruit and Vegetables from grocery stores are cheap and during my stay.
I mostly ate my own cooked meals. Eating cooked meals and mostly street food with the odd restaurant set me back around 180,000 COP for Bailey and I each week.
Local buses and the metro are cheap and most rides cost around 2,000 COP.
Intercity buses, however, are rather expensive with a trip from Cartagena to Medellin costing around 130,000 COP.
Local flights with Viva Colombia are cheap and can cost as little as 80,000 COP (Medellin to Bogota.) However, these flights do not include baggage and will cost extra to add on. The cheapest way to get around is still usually by bus but they can be very time-consuming.
Tours range so widely in price and length so it’s hard to give a ballpark figure, however, a city tour will usually cost around 60,000-100,00 COP. Other tours like the Lost City Trek can set you back 400,000- 600,000 COP.
Generally speaking, Medellin and Cartagena are more expensive than in other cities and towns.
Daily Budgets in Colombia
60,000-90,000 COP per day – This means staying in cheap hostel dorms, cooking almost all meals, rarely going on organized tours, and not drinking out.
90,000- 130,000 COP per day – Still staying dorms, eating out sometimes, participating in selected tours, and having a few beers here and there.
140,000-170,000 COP per day – Staying in a private room, eating out most meals, taking taxis regularly, tours in every city, and partying out a lot.
Best Places to visit in Colombia
There are so many amazing places that I couldn’t cover them all in my Colombia Travel Guide, but here are a few of my personal favorites!
Guatape is a small town located about 1 hour from Medellin. This small town is famous for a few great reasons including its colorful buildings and being home to the 3rd largest monolithic rock in the world – which you can climb! The area is also home to one of the infamous Pablo Escobar mansions where you can play a game or two of paintball!
This beautiful southern town is a great place to get amongst the locals and experience Colombia’s rich culture. Located to the south of Medellin, Salento boasts amazing coffee plantations, great food and of course the famous wax palms in the Valle de Cocora.
No trip to Colombia would be complete without a visit to Medellin. With amazing free walking tours, a rather infamous history, and a vibrant nightlife, Medellin shows visitors how far it has come since being one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
San Andres is a popular place among locals for weekend getaways. Located in the Caribbean, it boasts amazing beaches, world-class diving, and a relaxed island vibe!
This large Caribbean city is home to some amazing history. The old town is surrounded by a huge fort used back in Colonial times and is truly a site to see! A must do is the free walking tour!
Tayrona National Park
This beautiful national park located on the Caribbean coast is a must see! Thick green rain-forest meets crystal clear waters and with the option to stay the night on the beach! A trip to Tayrona National Park is the perfect getaway.
San Gil is Colombia’s adventure capital. With fantastic rivers perfect for kayaking and white water rafting, bungee jumping, abseiling and much more it’s the perfect place for any adrenaline junkie!
Minca is a small town located in the mountains near Santa Marta. Famous for its amazing views, cool climate and beautiful waterfalls it’s a popular spot for backpackers!
Santa Marta is used as a base for Tayrona National Park, the Lost City Trek, and Minca. This city has a great nightlife and some pretty cool nearby beaches to explore.
The southern town of Popayan is not a backpackers dream, however, its old colonial architecture is simply beautiful. If you’re heading through to Ecuador or vice versa it’s a great place to stop en route to the border!
Las Lajas Sanctuary
Las Lajas Sanctuary also Known as the Las Lajas Cathedral is arguably the most beautiful cathedral in Colombia and well worth checking out if your crossing from Colombia to Ecuador by bus.
Check out this blog for a backpacking in Colombia itinerary!
Top Things to do in Colombia
Last but least, no Colombia Travel Guide would be complete without a list of the best things to do!
Lost city Trek
The 4-day hike through the Colombian jungle is a must! Located near Santa Marta in the north, this hike takes you through amazing landscapes and finally ends at the famous Lost City Ruins!
Bungee jumping in San Gil
San Gil is home to the cheapest bungee jump in the world. At only $20 USD every traveler can afford it. Oh, and don’t worry, I jumped first to make sure it was safe!
Medellin Free Walking tour
In 15 months of traveling Latin America, the Medellin free walking tour by blah blah was by far the best! This tour really shouldn’t be free. The quality of the tour is 5 stars and from start, to finish I was so intrigued. Medellin’s history is both crazy and interesting!
Party at Carnival
If you love partying away the night and day then Colombia’s Carnival celebrations are for you! On during the month of February, the celebrations are amazing with the biggest celebrations taking place in the town of Barranquilla.
With the Caribbean on Colombia’s doorstep its no wonder that diving is so popular. I personally dived off of San Andres Island and absolutely loved it! The sea life and corals are stunning!
Visit the Amazon
Colombia is home to a small portion of the Amazon rainforest and also some of the least visited. For this reason, you can go on a trip into the unknown and off the beaten path!
Colombia is famous for its amazing coffee and the best place to drink it is at one of the farms on a coffee tour! Tours can be done almost everywhere with farms all over the country!
After visiting Colombia it’s easy to see why it has earned its top spot among travelers. It shocked me to see how far this country has come and how important it is to spread the message that this once dangerous country is now a spectacular place to visit. The Colombian people are some of the friendliest I have met and are begging for tourists to give the country a go. For these reasons and many more, Colombia is one of my favorite places on earth and is what has inspired me to write this Colombia Travel Guide.
I hope you found this Colombia Travel Guide helpful and if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments below, we respond to them all!
June 2, 2019