Are you looking to devise a Colombia travel plan? You are in the right place!
This post will detail everything you should know before a Colombia travel trip. Be it the best time to visit, the visa procedure, or the most popular destinations in this sun-kissed country, I will go over each aspect of the journey-planning process so you can have the best trip!
Colombia is one of my favorite destinations. Not only are the people friendly, the food delicious, and the scenery diverse, but the country has a certain charm that draws you right in. To travel Colombia is to learn a resilience that continues to strive amid historical adversities. Whether you decide to do so by embarking on a self-guided journey or joining a group tour, I will provide the information below!
- Overview of this Colombia Travel Guide
- When to go to Colombia
- Booking Timeline
- How to Get to Colombia
- Visas & Permits
- Money in Colombia
- Best Destinations & Colombia Travel Itineraries
- Recommended Colombia Tours & Groups
- Accommodation in Colombia
- How To Get Around Colombia
- Attractions & Tickets in Colombia
- Insurance for Your Colombia Travel Dates
- Estimated Travel Cost for Colombia
- What to Eat in Colombia
- What to Pack for your Colombia Trip
- Other Things to Know for your Colombia Travel Itinerary
Overview of this Colombia Travel Guide
Colombia is a lively country that sits at the tip of South America. It has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, which is characterized by the vast greenery, range of ecosystems, and varying wildlife. Be it the colorful small towns or the modern cityscapes, Colombia is the perfect destination for those seeking an adventurous getaway.
The first thing to do is deciding when to visit Colombia. If you’ve already a date in mind, head to the next section of the post, where I will dive into the activities and sights. Otherwise, below is an overview of everything you should know when deciding a date for your trip to Colombia!
Map of Colombia
Here is a map with several popular destinations that may give you some inspiration for your Colombia travel plans. Feel free to zoom into the map to take a closer look!
Whether you’d like to camp amongst wildlife or soak in the charm of a colorful neighborhood, this country will offer plenty of options. Colombia is also known for its extreme sports, such as paragliding and deep-sea diving.
When to go to Colombia
Colombia is a destination that can be visited year-round. Despite high humidity during late spring and late fall, rain season in Colombia is nothing like monsoon in South Asia. Even if the weather report stresses storms throughout the day, it usually means that there will be a quick shower or three. As such, wet season in Colombia won’t restrict your journey too much.
You can also plan your trip around Colombia’s festivities. Like most Latin American countries, Colombia goes all out during its carnival season. Not only is the Carnival of Barranquilla one of the biggest events in the country, but it’s also one of the biggest carnival celebrations in the world. The festivities officially begin in early February, though people can be found celebrating starting from mid-January.
The Festival de Flores en Medellin beginning in August is another fun celebration that fills the city with parades and people. The event showcases mesmerizing flower arrangements that populate the streets of Medellin.
The Black and Whites’ Carnival and The Cali Fair are also great expeditions for those looking to travel to Colombia.
Colombia is a country with plenty of things to do. If you’d like to take on the many adventures that the country offers, I recommend booking certain activities beforehand during the peak tourist season.
The best time to book flights to Colombia is 5-6 months beforehand. It’s best to book hotels around 1-2 months in advance and activities a month before your departure date.
5-6 months in advance of your Colombia travel date:
Book international flights to Colombia. Set up free flight alerts
Get insurance for Colombia travel dates. Here’s a non-obliged quote with World Nomad
Finalize your Colombia travel plans
Look up visa needs and requirements
3–1 month in advance of your Colombia travel date:
Plan your transportation around the country
Book your accommodation
3 weeks in advance of your Colombia travel date:
Book attractions and tours
Book airport transfers or other modes of transport to your hotel
Look up roaming needs if required
Save a copy of your documents onto your phone
2 days in advance of your trip:
Pack your bags and double-check your bookings!
How to Get to Colombia
Flights to Colombia
There are several ways to travel to Colombia. There are buses from a number of its neighboring countries, but it’s most likely that you will fly into one of Colombia’s 12 international airports. Depending on your itinerary, I’d recommend flying and departing from airports on opposite sides of the country so you can experience the sights in-between.
For example, I flew into Bogotá Airport El Dorado and departed from Rafael Núñez International Airport in Cartagena, which gave me ample time to traverse the cities and towns between the two locations.
Nonetheless, even if you choose a round-flight trip from the same city, the domestic flights and/or other forms of transportation within Colombia are very affordable.
Best Deals on Flights to Colombia
You can sign up for Skyscanner’s price alerts, which will notify you when flights to Colombia drop in price.
For business flights and first-class tickets, check out CheapOair.
Visas & Permits
Citizens from these countries don’t require a visa when entering Colombia for a max stay of 90 days. Those who do require a visa can apply for an e-visa online.
However, it’s important to note that some nationals may need to pay an entrance fee for Colombia. For example, Canadians are required to pay COP160,000 or CAD 80 at the Colombian airport. Remember to bring a sufficient amount of COP in cash!
Use iVisa to check and apply for Colombian Travel Visa as needed.
Money in Colombia
The Colombia Peso is the local currency (US 1 = COP 3,776.50). Although most places accept credit cards, it’s always a good idea to carry some cash. Settle for a few bigger bills, such as the COP 10,000 notes, but make sure you have a sufficient number of COP 1000 and COP 2000 bills on hand if you’d like to buy small snacks on the street.
Best Destinations & Colombia Travel Itineraries
A Colombia travel plan is not complete without crossing off a national park, several colorful towns, and at least one of its metropolitan. Here are a few popular destinations in Colombia that are worth a visit!
Bogota, the capital of Colombia with lots of museums and beautiful architecture
Salento, home to the Cocora Valley, tallest palm trees in the world
Barichara, a serene town with cobblestone roads and colonial houses
San Gil, a charming town close to Barichara
Medellin, one of the biggest metropolitan with lots of historical significance
Guatape, one of the most colorful towns in Colombia, a few hours from Medellin
Jardin, another small town known for its colorful houses and simple streets
Cartagena, famed port city with gorgeous colonial buildings
Cali, a popular city for salsa and nightlife
San Andres, an island in the Caribbean Sea
There are countless gorgeous destinations in Colombia. But if this is your first time in the country, here are a few Colombia travel guides that may help plan your trip!
Colombia tourism isn’t complete without a few national parks. Here are some of my favorite:
Here are a few transportation guides and photos-journalism pieces!
Recommended Colombia Tours & Groups
Intrepid Travel is a popular choice for those looking to travel off-the-beaten-path. They are suitable for independent travelers looking for 1-2 week Colombia tours and is a great way to meet others. Take a look at their trips.
Contiki is a popular option for those between 18-35 looking to travel in small, energetic groups. They offer a handful of Colombia tours that are catered to those seeking something a bit more adventurous. Click here to learn more.
Lastly, TourRadar is a platform that features multi-day Colombia tours. They compare trips from several companies and may offer something more inline with your preference!
Accommodation in Colombia
Colombia is a relatively affordable country to travel across. There are plenty of hostels and hotels to choose from, with some as low as US 5!
Hostels in Colombia are usually between US 5-25 depending on the town and season. I recommend eco-friendly hostels where you can interact with the owners, as many will provide amazing nature-oriented advice for backpacking Colombia.
Mid-range hotels will average around US 24-60 / night. You can discover plenty of highly-rated rooms at this price point. Unlike high-end chain hotels, many privately-owned mid-range hotels reflect the vibrancy of the country. (The colors and vibe are really fun!)
Finally, many high-end hotel chains operate in bigger cities in Colombia. These are often US 80 + and offer a more complete range of facilities.
Best Accommodation Booking Sites
HostelWorld or Hotels.com are great accommodation booking options for Colombia. Both are perfect for looking up and reviewing hostels or hotels in the country.
Airbnb and Couchsurfing are also possible in Colombia! My Couchsurfing hosts were so friendly that I felt like I was adopted into the families I stayed with! If you are looking for something a tad more luxurious, VRBO is great for vacation rentals.
How To Get Around Colombia
Domestic transportation in Colombia is good. There are a number of buses and flights that travel between cities. Uber is also available at a cheap rate in the country.
Buses & Metro in Colombia
Colombia’s public transportation system is convenient. Most towns are connected by buses found at identifiable terminals and major cities have efficient metro systems. Some bus terminals at smaller towns may be more difficult to find; if you’ve issues locating them, I suggest that you speak with the locals for directions!
The roads in bigger cities are decent to drive on. However, it is not easy to navigate the mountains. So, if you are going to visit the mountainous regions, I suggest that you take a bus or book a taxi instead.
Nonetheless, if you are a skilled driver looking at self-drive options for your Colombia travel plans, you can compare rental rates here.
Domestic flights are also a great way to navigate Colombia. Flights are generally affordable. And due to the many airports in the country, it’s easy to traverse between different destinations.
Attractions & Tickets in Colombia
It’s quite easy to purchase entrance tickets and buses on site. Remember to bring cash as some places won’t accept cards!
If you’d like to book day trips organized by local guides, Get Your Guide is a great platform. There are many affordable, highly rated Colombia tours that can be booked. Some of the best ones in the country include a boat tour to Guatape from Medellin, a tour of comua 13 in Medellin, and a sunset cruise in Cartagena.
Many cities also offer free walking tours. I recommend Real City Tour in Medellin (You should make a reservation at least 2 days in advance since they book out pretty fast). Although the guided tour is free, remember to tip the guides!
Insurance for Your Colombia Travel Dates
Before booking a trip to Colombia, remember to get adequate travel coverage. You should do so before purchasing your flight, as some insurance can be extended to canceled flights.
Some credit cards do offer affordable insurance coverage. Otherwise, World Nomads is a great option and you can get a free, non-obligated quote here.
Estimated Travel Cost for Colombia
Colombia is an affordable country to travel around. Although it won’t be as cheap as the prices in Southeast Asia, it is still very budget-friendly when compared to some of its other South American counterparts.
Here are a few estimated budgets for two people:
Absolute Backpacker: US 15/day (Couchsurfing / camping, some hitchhiking, street food)
Budget Traveler: US 30 (hostels, buses, meals at small restaurants)
Mid-range Traveler: US 80 (hotels, rental car, good meals)
High-end Traveler: US 120+ (nice hotels, rental car, good meals)
What to Eat in Colombia
If I can be honest, Colombia isn’t the best destination for vegetarians and vegans. Most dishes consist of meat and protein and will leave you stuffed to the rim. There is a lot of fried goodness and here are a few dishes that you should incorporate into your Colombia travel must-dos:
|Bandeja Paisa: a hearty meal||Arepas|
|Lechona: slow roasted pork with rice and veggies||Churros|
|Tamales: corn based dough with various fillings||Empanadas|
|Fritanga: large plate of various protein||Salchipapa|
|Arroz de lisa: rice dish with seafood||Avena|
Many places in Colombia, especially the sidewalks near schools and metros have little food stands. Follow the crowd! If there are people, the food must be good. I didn’t suffer from stomach problems with street food in Colombia. Of course, always be careful when you are on the road!
What to Pack for your Colombia Trip
Colombia has a tropical climate and can be very humid during April, May, and the late fall months. If you plan on visiting during the rainy season, remember to bring an umbrella and a rain jacket!
Although most of the country is blessed with beautiful weather that requires little need for heavy jackets, mountainous regions do get chilly. Parts of Bogota, Medellin, and other regions that sit along the Andes can be quite windy once night hits. I suggest bringing a light jacket for your visit!
One of the most important tips I have for your Colombia travel agenda is to put on heavy sunscreen! During my visit, there were many cloudy mornings that led me to think sunscreen was not important, only to be burnt to a crisp hours later.
Other Essential Items for a Colombia Trip:
Hat and scarf/shawl
A pair of hiking shoes
Swimwear & sunscreen
A type G plug adaptor
Other Things to Know for your Colombia Travel Itinerary
I understand that some people may feel apprehensive about visiting Colombia. From Netflix (Narcos anyone?) to the news, the media does not always place Colombia in a light. Despite lots of experience with backpacking, I can’t deny that I held some initial fears before my visit as well.
But I have to say that Colombia was one of the most enchanting and warm destinations I’ve been to! There were so many people willing to go out of their way to help me out and I felt completely at home no matter where I was. A few instances stood out to me: a grandfather that began teaching me Spanish on the bus, an ice cream man that led us through the boulders in Tayrona National Park to catch the last bus into Santa Marta, a Couchsurfing host’s family taking me in as their own, and on and on and on.
During my visit, I felt completely safe wandering the streets and traveling between cities by myself. Nonetheless, do research beforehand and understand that there are certain regions and areas not suitable for tourists. Always be careful and take precautions when visiting a new destination!
If you have questions about bus terminals, do ask someone! The locals are extremely friendly and really helpful with tourists!
If you are traveling between cities by bus, always add a few hours to the quoted travel time given by the bus terminals. I find that the mountain roads were unpredictable since we came across stretches of maintenance work and a few accidents that delayed many trips.
Visit as many small towns as you do metropolitans! Be it the colorful houses or serene landscape, Colombia’s small towns are very unique!
Do spend a night at one of its national parks. I wish I chose to camp out at one of its jungles!
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