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Our Top-10 Tips for Colombia Travel

User Avatar Author: José Ayerve
11 months ago - October 21, 2022

Reading time: 9 mins

Colombia is new again and very much worth visiting! With its renewed, focus on tourism, Colombia offers something unique for every kind of traveler. Thanks to its diversity of regions, this country has something special for aficionados of gorgeous coastlines, lush rolling hills, colorful cascades, lush rainforests, and some of the most modern and impressive cities in all of Latin America. Add to this a culture rich in music, tradition, cuisine, art, and dance and you have the makings of an unforgettable vacation!

 

Nonetheless, it’s important to understand everything you need to travel and to keep in mind when visiting this exciting destination. In this blog, we’ll walk you through the essential questions to help get you ready for your trip to one of the most spectacular places around! We’ve highlighted the following tips throughout the blog!

Colorful buildings line the streets of Bogota's La Candelaria

What do you need to travel to Colombia?

When preparing to travel to Colombia, you’ll need to think about logistics, including visas, travel, accommodations, transportation, and perhaps most importantly, how to make the most of your time in Colombia. Let’s look at these in a bit more detail.

Colombia Travel Requirements

Travelers from most countries throughout Europe and the Americas are not required to have a visa, they can simply enter Colombia with their passports and are permitted to stay for an initial 90 days. Visitors who want to stay longer can do so by formally requesting an extension. You can now take care of this errand online, though you may need to navigate their Spanish-language website. If you hail from a country that does require a visa (see below), you can read about acquiring a visa for travel here.

Visitors from the following countries are required to obtain a visa for travel to Colombia: Belarus, Cape Verde, Congo, Ivory Coast, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Haiti, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Senegal, Thailand, Tanzania, Ukraine, Vietnam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Travel and Accommodations

As with any well-planned trip, you’ll want to choose your destinations and experiences ahead of time, so you know where to head and where you’ll stay when you get to Colombia. Working with a reliable and proven tour provider, like Metropolitan Touring, can make a real difference in the enjoyment of your experience. Tour providers help you figure out accommodations, day tours, events, and transportation. Plus, they can provide 24/7 support should you need it. That peace of mind is invaluable.

Take for instance the following sample itinerary. Imagine you have a week to spend in Colombia, a tour provider can help route your travels to make the most of your time. Perhaps you start with a couple of days in the buzzing capital city of Bogota? Next, you fly to the extraordinary Medellin, a city enjoying a major renaissance. Finally, you spend a few relaxing days in the one-of-a-kind Cartagena, with its beautiful old fortress, fabulous coastline, and brightly colored old town. Cartagena is a favorite of many visitors, by the way.

Medellin City Skyline and Cablecar

Tip #1: Be open to different accommodation options.

Accommodations, like hotels and even Airbnbs, can provide comfortable and convenient stays throughout your trip to Colombia. However, you have other accommodation options to consider. Take, for example, a visit to the “Coffee Triangle” and its delightful locations that include Armenia and Salento, plus the not-to-miss Cocora Valley. Here, as in other regions of the country, it is much more common to find farm-style stays at comfortable and charming haciendas, of which there are many! Staying at a hacienda can feel like a trip back in time, and a pleasant one at that! It’s all part of the experience.

Transportation in Colombia

Once you arrive in Colombia, you’ll need to get around to various places you’d like to explore. Of course, if you participate in a day tour, typically, you’ll be picked up from your hotel or other accommodation.

Tip #2: Call a cab or use a ride-share app for local transportation.

If you plan to explore on your own, it’s best to ask the hotel to call a cab for you. Yes, there are taxis you can hail on the street, but recent trends have advised against this. Hotels and trusted businesses can recommend vetted taxi services and drivers. Also, if you need or want the same driver for several days in a row, a hotel can help you negotiate this.

Calling a car service or using a rideshare app like Uber can also be a safe, reliable, and convenient option. Just make sure to verify the license plate number and other information, as per common and recommended safety practices.

Tip #3: Domestic travel by plane is efficient, affordable, and saves time.

For getting from one region of the country to another, domestic flights are the number one option. Though highways in Colombia have improved greatly in the past few decades, traveling from one region or “department” (think provinces) to another can seriously cut into your vacation time. A short flight is preferable, more convenient, and quite affordable. A tour provider like Metropolitan Touring can help you arrange interdepartmental travel and find the best deals.

Colorful balconies in Cartagena's Old Town

Making the Most of Your Trip to Colombia

Tip #4: Plan ahead. Keep things flexible.

Researching activities, sites, landmarks, and points of interest ahead of time is always a great idea. If you arrange a different tour or site visit for each day, you’ll be sure to have the framework you need to fill in a satisfying schedule. Just, don’t forget to schedule some downtime! Remember, you’re on vacation, so keep it breezy! Incorporate enough free time into your daily schedule to enjoy some spontaneous activities, switch things up, if need be, or even take a little power nap before heading back out in search of a cool salsa spot!

Keeping things flexible means that if one of your activities gets rained out, you can possibly reschedule it for another day or time.

 

Tip #5: Carry cash in small denominations.

Remember, there are some charming street markets in every city and town, and credit card technology is not always available in Colombia. Also, some exciting adventures and tours may require payment in cash. Thus, carrying cash is recommended, especially when you find that amazing handmade gift at the local street market!

Carrying smaller denominations of Colombian Pesos can be quite convenient, too. Stashing them in different pockets is also a good idea. Cash is great for tipping tour guides, paying for entrance fees, and buying something to eat or drink when you’re in a little bit of a rush.

Tip #6: Be mindful of your surroundings, and your valuables.

Just as you wouldn’t necessarily take out your cell phone in the middle of a crowded street in some unfamiliar part of a big city, you’ll want to be mindful of where and when you take out your cell phone as you make your way around town in Colombia. Pick pockets are terrific vacation wreckers, and it’s always a smart idea to avoid their attention. The less you stand out, the more peace of mind you’ll enjoy as you make your way around town. Conversely…

Tip #7: Hiring a local guide is well worth it!

Nothing provides peace of mind like hiring a local guide; someone who can guide you on your exploration, offer great suggestions, interpret for you, and provide cultural insights to make your trip even more satisfying. In Colombia, local guides are worth their weight in gold but are reasonably affordable. A reliable tour provider, like Metropolitan Touring, can set you up with one.

Salento valley region in the Coffee Triangle

Tip #8: Dress to impress!

Colombian people have always kept an air of formality. This means they are generally passionate and serious about their approach to art, fashion, cuisine, and culture. People enjoy dressing nicely when they go out to dinner or attend an event. Even a simple trip to the mall can be considered a public outing that merits looking good and making a good impression.

We recommend you pack clothes that are comfortable enough for dining and dancing, but also presentable enough so that you can go out to a nice restaurant and feel right at home. In other words, when you make an effort, you’ll be greeted with a warm and helpful smile. Think of it as an easy and surefire way to show respect and admiration for your host country and its traditions.

Tip #9: Hospitality is a two-way street.

Another identifying characteristic of the Colombian people is their incredible hospitality. Part of Colombian etiquette is to be especially attentive and gracious to guests. This can take the shape of being offered a cup of coffee or tea, and perhaps a light snack before sitting down to lunch or dinner and the best way to do your part as a guest, is to be appreciative and to accept this kind gesture with a warm smile. Attention to etiquette is a sign of good manners, and good manners make a great impression! Also, it’ll enhance your experience of the country, so enjoy it!

Tip #10: Be thoughtful when broaching sensitive topics about Colombia’s history.

Colombia is a country that has worked incredibly hard to overcome their reputation as a place riddled with political unrest due to internal conflicts drug cartels, guerilla forces, and the government. This beautiful nation has made a tremendous effort to overcome the challenges of their past and establish their place among the very best destinations in all Latin America. Stability, modernity, and peace is their reward, as well as a healthy and growing tourism sector.

Our final tip is to be sensitive about Colombia’s complicated history and avoid making jokes about their tumult when chatting with folks you meet in Colombia. You’re bound to have a wonderful visit and focusing on the new and the positive is a great way to guarantee your journey will be even more enjoyable and rewarding!

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