The best Colombia travel guide | everything you need to know

If you ask travelers what is Colombia like, they will probably give you the answer: great! Why? Firstly, by the inhabitants themselves. When you are in Colombia you will immediately start to love the people. They are very nice, always have a smile and are proud that you as a tourist visit their country. They are always ready to help you. Colombia is one of the countries that has become very popular with travelers in recent years. This is because safety has been improved tremendously. Colombia is a very versatile country, from beautiful nature to bustling world cities. Every type of traveler can make their desired journey in Colombia. The Colombians work hard to give you a different view of Colombia. Probably the image you have of Colombia when you arrive and leave is completely different! This Colombia travel guide helps you plan your trip through Colombia.

Minca sunrise san lorenzo

Main information Colombia

Colombia at a glance: Colombia is a very versatile country because it has almost everything. From imposing mountains, beautiful sea, white sandy beaches to colonial villages, bustling metropolises, and beautiful museums. Colombia has 10% of the biodiversity which is worth exploring. When you are in Colombia you will fall in love with the culture and biodiversity.

Most popular destinations in Colombia:

  • Bogota: For most travelers, Bogota is the city where they arrive and depart. In Bogota, you can visit the most beautiful museums in Colombia. Museo Botero and Museo del Oro are two museums that you should definitely visit.
  • Salento / Valle de Cocora: Salento is a small village in the coffee region of Colombia. In Salento, you can do the best coffee tour in Colombia and visit Valle de Cocora. The tallest palm trees in the world grow here in a valley.
  • Medellin: Medellin is the nicest city in Colombia. In the past it wasn’t safe to travel to Medellin, today it is one of the most popular cities in South America.
  • Cartagena: Fall in love with the colorful streets and Caribbean influences.
  • Tayrona National Park: Want to visit Colombia’s most beautiful national park? This National park is special because the mountains of Serra Nevada overflow into the jungle and the sea.

Check this article about the best cities to discover in Colombia!

Currency in Colombia: Colombian Peso | 2021 exchange rate: 100 COP = €0.023 / $0.027

Tipping in Colombia: The only place you are expected to tip is in restaurants. There is a difference between normal and luxury restaurants. At luxury restaurants, 10% servicio or propina (tip in Spanish) is always added to the bill. If you do not want to pay this, you must call the manager and explain what you didn’t like in order not to pay the tip. This really only applies to very luxurious restaurants (we didn’t experience this). At the normal restaurants where most travelers eat, you should say ‘sin servicio, por favor’ (no tip please) when asking for the bill. If you forget this, you can also simply pay the amount without a tip.

Religion and Culture: Roman Catholicism is the most common religion in Colombia. In the culture, you can clearly see the influences of the Spanish occupation. You see a nice mix between Caribbean customs and Spanish traditions.

Transport in Colombia: Colombia is a very large country, so it’s recommended to use the bus and plane. For the relatively short distances, you can use the bus and buy your ticket for the next destination at your accommodation, tour operators, or bus station. For longer distances such as Medellin-Cartagena or Santa Marta-San Gil, it is recommended to use the plane or the night bus.

The best time to visit Colombia

Colombia has a tropical climate. Because it is close to the equator, the temperature is the same all year round and there are few temperature fluctuations. Colombia has a rainy and a dry season.

The rainy season for the south is between May-July and October-December. For the north, this is between September-October. The dry season is only in the south between December-March and July-August.

Colombia can be roughly divided into three seasons:

  • High season (December-February): driest period, the best time to visit Colombia. The disadvantage is that the prices are high during this period;
  • Moderate season (March-September): wet period, a good time to visit Colombia. The disadvantage is that the big cities can suffer from a lot of rainfall in April and May;
  • Low season (October-November): the period of flooding in the Andean region. Due to the low water level, you can make good hikes in the Amazon. Prices are the lowest during this period.

The best time to visit Colombia: The high and moderate seasons are the best periods to visit Colombia. We personally prefer the moderate season, because the prices are lower.

Is Colombia safe to travel?

Colombia is safe to travel to. No country other than Colombia has done everything to make Colombia a safe country to travel to in recent years. If you use your common sense and prepare, nothing will happen. If you follow the tips below, you will most likely not experience any problems:

  • Do not walk in strange neighborhoods where you don’t see other tourists (especially in the big cities);
  • Use common sense, especially in the evening;
  • Only pin your money at a bank and preferably during the day and not in a strange side street after dark;
  • Avoid drug tourism;
  • Don’t accept drinks or cigarettes from strangers, you don’t know what has been done with this;
  • Busy places such as airports, bus stations, and markets are attractions for pickpockets. Carry your bag in front of you to prevent pickpockets;
  • Walk deliberately, so don’t walk down the streets and show that you are lost. This can stand out and attract pickpockets. If you want to find the way and look at your map, go to a shop to orientate or ask for directions. This tip only applies to the major cities. This does not apply to the smaller villages;
  • If you take a taxi in the evening from the airport or station, you must take an official taxi. Better pay a little more than getting into unpleasant situations afterward.

Again Colombia is safe, use your common sense and you can travel in Colombia without any problems. It is important to have travel insurance, read more about this below.

Do you have travel insurance? If this is not the case, we recommend that you take out travel insurance. It is not wise to travel uninsured. Should an unpleasant situation arise and you are not insured, this can have unpleasant consequences. Your cell phone could be stolen or you could break your leg, requiring you to visit the hospital. In these cases, you need travel insurance. Be smart and get travel insurance before you go. We always use and recommend World Nomads for our trips. Fill in the form below to take out travel insurance immediately.

Best things to do in Colombia

Go paragliding over the Chicamocha Gorge

Do you like adrenaline? Then go paragliding over the Chicamocha gorge, this is the best place in Colombia for paragliding. In fact, it is one of the best places in the world for paragliding. You can organize a tour from San Gil.

Stroll through the beautiful colonial streets

Because Colombia has been occupied by the Spaniards, you can still clearly see the colonial influences. Cartagena and Barichara (from San Gil) are the most beautiful places to see the colonial influences.

Rafting category VI and V

If you want to go rafting and want to do it in one of the best places in the world then rafting over Rio Suarez is something for you. You can do this from San Gil.

Spend the night between the sea and the jungle

Tayrona National Park is the most visited park in Colombia. Many travelers visit this park in one day, but you can also stay here for several days. Unique to stay at the beach and sleep with the jungle behind you.

palomino surfing
palomino surf lesson

Best itinerary for Colombia

Colombia is a very versatile country and has a lot to offer. For this reason, you should have an itinerary that you can use as a guide. Most travelers have +/- 3 weeks to discover Colombia. This is enough to see the highlights of Colombia. Due to the size of the country, it isn’t possible to see everything. We recommend that you select in advance what you prefer to visit and select a part where you are going to travel. Keep in mind that traveling between destinations takes a long time due to the long distances. For this reason, we recommend using the plane or a night bus for very long distances. This means you don’t lose much time traveling.

We have made a Colombia travel route, we have also done this ourselves. Our travel route through Colombia has a good mix between nature, adventure, culture, cities, and an acceptable travel time. You don’t just want to be on the road during your trip. For example, we haven’t visited the south of Colombia, because this is a lot of traveling. In our Colombia itinerary, you can read what the best places are to visit in Colombia. If you want more information about a specific destination, you can simply open its article and read all the detailed information.

Colombia itinerary

Best dishes in Colombia

Colombian food is a mix of European and Latin American. Colombian food is very fresh and tasty. You can find many different restaurants in Colombia. The best way to discover Colombian cuisine is by eating at local places. Dishes from Colombia mainly consist of corn, beans, chicken, potatoes, meat, and rice. Many Colombian dishes are worth trying.

Dishes that you really should try when you are in Colombia are:

  • Arepas: The most served side dish in Colombia. It is made from cornmeal and is usually served with corn or butter.
  • Ajiaco: A delicious soup consisting of chicken, avocado, potatoes, capers, corn, and sour cream.
  • Lechona: This is a roasted pig filled with rice, onions, peas, and herbs. This is often served as a specialty.
  • Empanadas: This is a delicious snack that you will find all over South America. The dish is originally from Spain and Portugal. Usually, empanadas are baked and filled with various ingredients.
  • Churros: A long-shaped dough that has been fried, really delicious. You see clearly the Spanish influence in this dish. Many Colombians eat this for breakfast.

We wrote an article about the best restaurants in Colombia, check it out when you want to know more!

Budget type for Colombia

Colombia is one of the cheaper countries in South America to travel to. Colombia is very versatile, you can go hiking, go rafting, paraglide over a gorge or relax on the beach. In Colombia, you can have a great trip no matter what your budget is. Depending on what type of traveler you are, you have to take into account a budget of:

  • Budget traveler: if you have a tight budget and you pay close attention to what you spend, $30 – $35 per day may be sufficient.
  • Mid-range traveler: If you do a couple of expensive activities or stay at good accommodations, $35 – $65 per day is enough.

If you want to know more about how much it costs to travel through Colombia and how much it costs in particular if you use our Colombia itinerary you can read this article for all the detailed information: Colombia trip cost. For each cost category, it is explained in detail what the costs consist of and how you can save on them. You can also read how much our trip cost.

Where to stay in Colombia

In Colombia, you can stay at very basic to very luxurious accommodations. You can stay in a tent or a luxury hotel with its own beach. It is also possible to stay in nice cozy dormitories or sleep in a hammock on the roof of a hostel. At every destination, there are enough choices for every type of traveler.

Searching for the right accommodation is time-consuming. To help you, we have wirtten an article in which we give accommodation recommendations for each destination based on our Colombia itinerary. If you want to save yourself a lot of time, we recommend reading our article about Read the best hostels and hotels in Colombia and immediately book the accommodation you prefer. This ensures you a place to sleep. An advantage is that you still retain your flexibility because if you book via our links you can adjust your reservation free of charge up to two days before check-in.

Colombia hotel

What to pack for Colombia

Of course, packing your bag for Colombia depends on what you are going to do specifically. The advantage is that the temperatures are the same all year round. Try to work with layers as much as possible in terms of clothing so that you are still comfortably dressed in places like Bogota. Here it can be cooler than other destinations in Colombia. Based on our experience, we recommend the following packing list for a trip to Colombia:

Tip: pack as little as possible. Anything that you take with you too much should be lugged along throughout your holiday.

  • Swimming and normal (hike) clothes (pack as light as possible, work with layers)
  • 1 pair of good walking shoes, 1 pair of slippers
  • Toiletry bag with stuff
  • Mosquito spray
  • Sun protection
  • Crazycap (UV water bottle)
  • Personal items

  • Medication
  • Drybag
  • Sleeping bag
  • Quick-drying towel
  • Rain jacket (for the rainy season)
  • Medical kit (very important for your personal safety!)
  • Other (zip bag, combination lock, and universal charger)

Other travel tips from this Colombia travel guide

  • Don’t do Pablo Escobar tourism. This is offensive and doesn’t bring any joy to anyone. So don’t talk about the Narcos series or anything related to this topic.
  • Make sure you have the correct vaccinations. Contact your own doctor for more information.
  • Before traveling to Peru, try to speak a few words of Spanish. We heard from travelers that it was sometimes difficult for them to communicate because they didn’t speak English very well.
  • Try to arrange everything yourself and don’t do an organized trip. This saves you a lot of money and you keep your flexibility during the trip. There is nothing more fun than going on an adventure yourself.
  • Pay as much as possible with cash (withdraw money at banks). Also, bring a credit card should something happen to your normal bank card.
  • Enjoy your holiday and let yourself be surprised! Colombia is one of the most beautiful countries you can visit. You are going to have many adventures here.

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The best Colombia travel guide | everything you need to knowThe best Colombia travel guide | everything you need to knowThe best Colombia travel guide | everything you need to know

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