8 Things to Know Before Traveling to Colombia

What do I need to know before going to Colombia?

Streets in Bogota Colombia by Michael Baron via unsplash
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Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Colombia

A visit to Colombia will give you some of the most stunning natural views in the world! You can be on a trip to the fascinating Amazon rainforest one day and the beautiful highlands next. There sure are plenty of things to enjoy and various places to be in. But before you hop into the plane to one of the world’s most exciting destinations, make sure you’re well prepared for your trip. Here are eight things to learn about Colombia for an exciting and convenient trip.

Things to Know Before Traveling to Colombia photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel via unsplash
Things to Know Before Traveling to Colombia photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel via unsplash

Colombia is tourist-friendly

If you’ve seen the films Miami Vice, Cocaine Godmother, or Empire State, chances are you have already heard about the drug trafficking and corruption in Colombia. An unknown fact is that there is more to this beautiful country. Colombia is one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the entire world. Its efforts towards biodiversity is also the second most commendable worldwide. And if ever you were wondering, most of the touristy places here are safe to travel to. In 2019, the crime rate among 120 countries was ranked. The highest crime rate index was at 84.86% while the lowest was at 12%. Colombia came in with a 52.54% crime index, somewhat closer to the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Colombians put family first, and if you are traveling with children, you certainly will get preferential treatments everywhere. Queues usually have separate lanes for children and their guardians. If you want to be the safest you possible can, you might want to ensure you have a travel insurance policy in place. It also helps to be watchful of your environment and to conceal your valuable items well.

Apart from physical security, you might be wondering if you can save money by drinking from the tap water. Many cities such as Bogotá, Medellín, Cartagena, and Cali have potable water. Although many areas in Colombia have drinkable tap water, it is still better to buy bottled ones or at least, buy from reliable suppliers. Don’t afraid to ask around, Colombians are generally accommodating.

It is convenient to go around

Being the 25th largest country in the world, you won’t run out of places to visit in Colombia. Getting around is not at all difficult. Taxis and buses are reliable modes of public transportation. When traveling by cab, you can expect the price to be calculated by the meter in most areas. In certain areas, the pricing is calculated by zones or bands. Since you can easily fall prey to overpricing, make sure you ask your host or your hotel’s concierge for assistance. If you want to be more independent, downloading travel apps can be helpful. Uber and Cabify are famous options in Colombia. Renting a motorcycle is another great way to travel around the country. With a trusty map app, you’re all set.

Street Art in Cartagena Colombia by Jorge Gardner via Unsplash
Street Art in Cartagena Colombia by Jorge Gardner via Unsplash

Hopping from one city to another is a great way to get to know Colombia. You might be surprised to know that Colombia’s climate can significantly differ per altitude. This country has jungles, deserts, and snow-capped mountains, all in the same season. Make sure you check the weather on each destination well enough so you can dress appropriately. In Colombia, the way you dress will affect the impression you make. Avoiding flip flops and effortless-looking clothes can help you build networks or get the help you need.

You can get by with little Spanish

Many Colombians speak only Spanish. Although a lot of tourists get by without much Spanish, learning their language can be cool and useful at the same time. This is all the more handy if you love telenovelas in Spanish! If you’re already familiar with some phrases, you can try learning local slangs. Colombians will appreciate it!

Streets in Bogota Colombia by Michael Baron via unsplash
Streets in Bogota Colombia by Michael Baron via unsplash

It pays to have cash on hand

If you’re used to cashless transactions, you usually won’t have issues if you’re staying in big cities like Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena. However, in smaller towns, having cash on hand is king. If you intend to buy from souvenir shops, grab a snack, hail a cab, or ride the bus, it’s best to be carrying cash. The safest places to withdraw money from are ATMs at the airport, in banks, and hotels. If you’re carrying US dollars, you will have a lot of purchasing power.

If you came from a country where tipping is customary, know that it is not usual to always tip in Colombia. Usually, people tip only when they are delighted with the service. Should you decide to tip, paying an extra 1,000 to 2,000 Colombian pesos on top of your bill is generous enough.

The last thing you want during your travel is to have your cards declined. Since you are likely to use your card for withdrawals or cashless transactions, letting your bank know at least a day before your trip at the latest is necessary.

Souvenir Shops in Raquira Colombia by Michael Baron via Unsplash
Souvenir Shops in Raquira Colombia by Michael Baron via Unsplash

Download various apps for discounts and convenience

Apps are modern-day heroes. They allow you to settle faster and adjust better to new places. If you can navigate through new apps for your trip, that’s better. It will save you time troubleshooting when you can already be out and about. Downloading apps that give you the best restaurant recommendations and the most accurate weather forecast in Colombia will come in extremely handy. Apps that will help you save as you spend will keep your expenses at bay too. To make sure these apps work even without Wi-Fi, make sure you purchase local sim cards or at least set your network on roaming. If you’re planning on buying a sim card, the companies Claro, Tigo, and Movistar are the most widely used.

If you’ve got extra time, you can also join a social media group for tourists or ex-pats in Colombia. They are valuable sources of information and great deals!

Practice your dancing

Dancing and music are a part of Colombians’ DNA. When you visit their country, you’ll see salsa and rumba everywhere at any time of the day. Apart from these two dances, cumbia, merengue, champeta, and vallenato are also popular dances in Colombia. Practicing your groove can be a fun way to prepare for your trip.

Colombian Lady in Cartagena by Ricardo Gomez Angel via Unsplash
Colombian Lady in Cartagena by Ricardo Gomez Angel via Unsplash

Find a calendar of festivities during your visit

Colombia is home to various festivities and events all year round. Partaking in festive celebrations is one of the most fun ways to understand their culture and customs. Colombian cuisine is tasty and nutritious. A taste of aijaco, hearty chicken soup will keep you wanting more. The popular sancocho is also a must-try. You will like it if you’re fond of tasty stew made of choice meat or seafood. Experiencing the pageantry, seeing their traditional dresses, and tasting local cuisine all in one experience will surely elevate your Colombian trip.

Colombia has a vibrant and exciting culture

If you’re used to a fast-paced daily routine, there’s a lot of adjustment to make when you stay in Colombia. Compared to Western and European countries, Colombia is a little less on time and a little less organized. It’s not unusual to queue at the supermarket for some time or to allot extra patience over a delayed train ride. If you’re running late, these things can cause annoyance and frustration. Expecting small hiccups will help set your expectations well, especially if you are a person of plans and routine.

Street Dance Festival in Colombia
Street Dance Festival in Colombia

Apart from the expected chill pace, the public display of anger or rage is considered a turn off in Colombia. Even if you’re mad about something back home, your laptop crashing, or having been mugged, making your anger evident will not serve you well. You can expect two reactions to come forth. If you’re lucky, they will ignore you thinking that you’re a low-class crazy person. If you’re unlucky, a Colombian might misinterpret your anger as directed at him, and you can end up getting punched. Note that this does not have to happen. Patience is indeed a virtue. Besides, the moment you see the lush jungles and sparkling waters of Colombia, you will undoubtedly get refreshed. If you love documenting your experience, you probably will have chargeable gadgets with you. The two kinds of electrical outlets used in Colombia are Type A and Type B ones.

Colombia is a distinct country made up of exciting regions. There’s so much to do and visit in this country that it will be challenging to compress your trip in a short period. Nonetheless, making the most out of your time through these tips will surely give you a memorable journey.

Want more updates about new tourist attractions in Colombia? Follow #TeamOutofTown, on Facebook, and TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest for more travel ideas.

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