Packing For Colombia
What kind of details do you think about before you go traveling to a country?
I asked around, and came up with the five most frequently asked questions. Let me help you when packing for Colombia by providing a metaphorical suitcase of knowledge you may find useful.
Preparing for the Colombian Weather
The basics that everyone packs when traveling are clothes. This will represent the kind of weather you can find here in the main cities of Colombia. Most people believe that Colombia has a very hot climate, because of its proximity to the equator. Which is true for most places. Cartagena and Barranquilla, for example, are right on the coast. In those cities you’ll normally see the locals wandering around in shorts, tshirts, and tanktops. Luckily, although it’s warm, the refreshing coastal breeze drifts by very often. Pereira is just a tad bit cooler, but without the ocean breeze. While Cali is one of the hottest cities that you’ll find in Colombia.
When packing for Colombia, there’s definitely a need to pack light clothes and water bottles for Cali; however, other cities are quite the opposite. Bogotá is one of the coldest cities in Colombia. When traveling to Bogota, it’s important to pack warm clothes such as jackets, scarves, maybe even boots. Bogotá’s weather is very inconsistent. It can rain for a week straight, and then be super warm and sunny the next week!
Lastly, another item you should always bring when packing for Colombia is an umbrella. Whether it’s for the rain of Bogotá, or the strong sun of Cali, an umbrella will always come in handy.
Safety in Colombia
Safety is one of the biggest questions foreigners ask before travelling to Colombia. Everyone knows about the shows of Narcos and Pablo Escobar. Yes, these things did really happen. Yes, Colombia used to be known as a dangerous country, but things have changed. Colombia is quickly losing that stereotype and becoming a beautiful places to visit. In Bogotá, you can find a police station every few blocks. Medellin actually won an award for how much it’s improved its safety and structure. Just remember to be smart.
In Colombia we have a saying “No dar papaya”, which doesn’t mean don’t give fruit. It means don’t put yourself in a risky situation. Be aware of what roads you take, what you have in your pocket, and what kind of people you hang around with! Just like in any other place, if you see a dark empty street and you’re alone…maybe it’s best not to walk down that road.
Traveling in Colombia
Do you guys ever think about what kinds of shoes you should take with you? In this case I’m not talking about physical shoes, but referring to transportation in Colombia. There are three main transportation methods: water, air, and land. It is actually possible to sail into Colombia, since it is bordered by both the pacific and Caribbean seas. The most popular way is to sail from Panama into Cartagena. This route; however, tends to be quite expensive. The fastest way to travel, on the other hand, is by plane. The locals suggest using LAN, Avianca, or Copa airplanes.
On land, there is a wide range of options for transportation. If you’d like, renting a car is an option, but not recommended. It is very expensive, plus driving a car in Colombia is dangerous and just not fun. The most common method of land transportation is by bus. They are very affordable and, more or less, fast (because of the crazy way people drive here!).
You can find buses in the cities, for example transmilenio and SITP in Bogotá, and there are plenty of buses that travel all over the country! In some places in the coast, for example Cartagena, you’ll even find taxi motorcycles! These are mostly illegal, but everyone uses them anyway. Uber or taxi is always a great option at night or if you find yourself lost. While you can always catch a cab in the streets, it’s better to do it through an app such as Tappsi or EasyTaxi. Some Taxi drivers may try to rip off foreigners. For this, make sure that the meter is set to 25. Also, verify that they have the card stating the fares. Just keep in mind that during holidays, including Sundays and every day after 7 pm, there is any extra charge of 2,000 COP.
How to budget for traveling to Colombia
One of the most common questions people ask is about the money/budget needed to travel in Colombia. First, the currency is called Colombian Pesos, or COP. It has an exchange rate of about 2,800 COP for every US dollar, 2,300 COP for every Australian Dollar, or 3,900 COP for every British Pound. The bills/notes come in 1.000, 2.000, 5.000, 10.000, 20.000, and 50.000. The coins come in 50, 100, 200, and 500. The common banks in Colombia are Bancolombia, Davivienda, Banco De Bogota, Banco Santander, Grupo Aval, Banco Agrario, Banco Occidente, Banco Pichincha, and City Bank.
In US dollars, food can range from $3, $10, or even $40 for meals in restaurants, it all depends on how you want to eat. Housing in a hostel can be anywhere from $15-20 USD per night. For a hotel or Airbnb you’re looking at about $50 USD per night. City to city buses can range from $15 USD to $50 USD. As an example, I’ve taken a bus from Bogotá to Medellin round trip, for about $40 USD.
Places to visit while in Colombia
Last, but absolutely not least, are the places you should see. We have all types of terrain here in Colombia, ranging from desert, to rainforest, to snow-capped mountains. The snow-capped mountains can be found in Nevado del Ruiz. If you’re adventurous, you can even go hiking through those mountains!
There is also the archeological park of San Agustin in Huila, which similar to Machu Picchu in Peru. A location that is packed with culture. From there, close to San Agustin, is the desert of Tatacoa. Additionally, there is also a beautiful river called Caño Cristales, in La Macarena. They are known for their colors, taken from the plants, sand, fresh water, and rocks. If you’re traveling to Bogotá for classes at Whee Institute, head to the mountain Monserrate to see the large expanse of the city.
When looking for an escape from the city, there is a boat that will take you on a 10 day journey through the Amazon. In Cundinamarca, there is Salto de Tequendama, which is a beautiful waterfall. And of course, there are the beautiful beaches of Santa Marta, specifically in Parque Tayrona!
Although, this in no way sums up all the beauty of Colombia, it does help get you started. So with your mental (and literal) suitcases now packed…you’re ready to head to Colombia!