Colombia Travel Guide
- Everything you need to know for your trip to Colombia-
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia, is a transcontinental country mainly located in South America and some territories in North America. The country is fastly becoming one of the main tourist spots of South America. The mixture of nature, beach, and friendly locals should convince you to put the country on your bucket list!
Why Visiting Colombia?
When it comes to the Southern American countries, you may not consider Colombia the first choice to visit! However, Colombia is going to become of the main tourist hubs of the continent. In recent years, the number of tourists has been increased drastically due to many reasons.
Adventure and National Parks are the primary reasons for visiting Colombia. Having megadiverse landscapes in the country made Colombia a fantastic destination for adventure lovers. Andes mountain, the most extended continental mountain range in the world, runs through the country. Interestingly, 35% of Colombia is covered by the Amazon rainforest, housing countless indigenous communities.
Colombia is a multiethnic country with around 50 million people from European, African, and Amerindian ethnicities. Locals are exceptionally friendly and hospitable. They enjoy visiting tourists around their country.
The country offers fantastic beaches on the Caribbean and Pacific Coastline. If you are a beach lover, you should make sure to visit Colombia. Malpelo Island is one of the largest shark hubs in the world!
Colombia houses 10% of the world’s animal species, including 1800 kinds of birds, 456 mammals, and a large group of insects, marines, reptiles, etc. Generally, wildlife is one of the main reasons for visiting South American countries, especially Colombia.
Colombia Top Destinations
Click on each Colombia’s destination to read the full travel guide of the city.
Best Time to Visit Colombia
The climate in Colombia is generally tropical and isothermal with only two substantial seasons including dry and rainy seasons. The best time for visiting the country is during the dry season.
(April to May - October to November)
Temperature: (+11 °C – 51.8 °F) – (+19 °C – 66.2 °F) / (+19 °C – 66.2 °F)
Visiting Colombia in Rainy seasons is not recommended, especially if you do not live in a tropical country. However, if the crowd is your main consideration, the Rainy season can be the best choice
(December to January - July to August)
Temperature: (+9 °C – 48.2 °F) – (+19 °C – 66.2 °F) / (+10 °C – 50 °F) – (+19 °C – 66.2 °F)
Dry Seasons are the best times for visiting Colombia. Your first choice can be between December to March and if not, between July and August can be a good time for visiting this country.
Best Colombia Tours
Things to Do in Colombia
From top to bottom, Colombia has a breathtaking landscape and unique places to go. The beauty is not just limited to this country’s nature, as there are numerous towns and cities worth exploring. The number of things to do in Colombia never ends if you stay around to discover all there is to this traveling destination.
Witness the Beauty of Amazon
One of the most memorable experiences of Colombia is going to the amazing Amazon Rainforest. Global warming or not, it is an experience that you may not have again, so do not postpone this significant part of nature. The vastness of the Amazon includes this country, Brazil and Peru, making it a top place to go in all three countries.
As you stroll in the green forest, you can see some of the most exotic creatures and may even stumble upon a village. If you want to go adventuring or enjoy a relaxing experience, be sure not to miss the Amazon. There could be a full list of things you can do in this rainforest, which will be up to you to decide.
Trekking to the Lost City
Surrounded by another unique forest, trekking to the Lost City is one of the best things you can do in Colombia. This trek is famous for being a long yet exciting experience among travelers. You will be trekking for more than 40 kilometers in the Sierra Nevada mountains to reach the ancient capital of the Tayrona Indians. Both the journey and the destination have their highlights, making this trip even more tempting and worthwhile.
There is not much recorded-history about the Lost City, but it is known to be one of the largest settlements and civilizations of the natives. It will take a few days to go trekking to the Lost City, so be ready for a challenge, and bring some other friends to keep you company. If not with friends, be sure to have your own guide to show you the way and tell you all about the area and the natives that used to live here.
Go Hiking in the Cocora Valley (Valle de Cocora)
The enchanting Cocora Valley is a national park and one of the best places to go hiking. It is where you can see the 60-meter wax palm trees of Colombia. The area is mesmerizing because of the weather, the clouds, and the trees. You can go on about the trip in any way you like, for example, ride on horseback or rent bikes. Whatever you do, do not miss the hiking in the Cocora Valley.
As you are enjoying the beauty, it is good to consider that there are coffee plantations nearby that are also one of Colombia’s highlights. Enjoy the forest and the mountains, and perhaps even bring your camera, as well as some good traveling companions.
Marvel at the Underground Salt Cathedral
Have you ever been to a Salt Cathedral, deep underground and in a salt mine? If you have not seen the place already, be sure to put it on your list of things to do in Colombia as you will not see it anywhere else. Two hundred meters below ground lies this Roman Catholic church built by salt miners as a place of worship. If you are a dedicated pilgrim or want to be stunned by its beauty, you should not miss the Salt Cathedral.
I doubt any of the miners knew that this place would become a trendy tourist attraction, but it is good that they built the place. While exploring this amazing place of worship, you might also want to sit and relax at the café as well and spend some time in a place so marvelous.
Hiking, Trekking, and Swimming at the Tayrona National Park
If you haven’t already realized it, Colombia is a paradise for those who want to spend time enjoying nature. While exploring all these lovely places, be sure to make a visit to Tayrona National Park and spend some time there. This beautiful part of Colombia is where you can see some wildlife, go hiking, and then head for the Caribbean coast.
It has challenging areas as well as great places to rest and relax. Check the forecast, check your gear, and plan to spend several hours at Tayrona National Park.
Spend a Few Days Exploring Bogotá
Other than the beautiful landscape, Colombia offers some great places to go in the cities. Since Bogotá provides a wide variety of things to do, it is best to go exploring for a few days, both in the countryside or in the streets. Among the highlights of Bogotá, be sure to visit the Gold Museum or “Museo del Oro” as the locals would call it.
While strolling around, you should also keep an eye out for the famous street art in Bogotá. As it is one of the largest cities in the country, and the beating heart of Colombia, spend a few days and see all that you can. If you ever feel hungry as you explore, it is also one of the best places to try local cuisine.
Bask in the Beauty of Barichara
There are many pretty places to take pictures in Colombia, but Barichara is perhaps the number one. Barichara is a colonial town with the prettiest cobblestone streets, colorful roofs, and beautiful buildings. If you have a camera and want to take pictures, be sure to have your equipment in the most picturesque place in all of Colombia.
However, beauty is not only about the exterior of the buildings. The town has some of the best local restaurants and shops, offering hand-made crafts and arts. If you do not visit Barichara, you have missed one of the most memorable experiences of your trip.
The second-largest city of Colombia is filled with all kinds of activities in Medellín. If you enjoyed the street arts of Bogotá and the beauty of Barichara, you will also love Medellín. There are museums to visit and football matches to see as well as street food to try. But above all, what is really popular in Medellín, is the Gondola, or the Metro Cable of this city.
Although the city was previously known to be a center of crime and drugs, it is now safe and developing. A trip to Medellín can teach you a lot about Colombia’s culture, history, and people. If anyone tells you times and people do not change, bring them to Medellín to prove them just how wrong they are!
Walk in the Historic City of Cartagena
If not the number one place to go, visiting Cartagena is one of the top things to do in Colombia. It has magnificent buildings and a wall that was constructed in the 16th century. The old town and streets of Cartagena are well preserved and have a good feel to it. If you go exploring, you would not have wasted your time as you see some excellent street arts as you walk.
There are also restaurants, cafés, churches, and bars, making this place an ideal destination for having fun and visiting historical sites. Or you can walk on the city walls or visit the fort like many other travelers.
The best of all the activities inside Cartagena is to spend time with the locals and in the bars to catch this town’s vibe. As soon as you get enough of the streets, you can get on a boat and visit the islands and beaches nearby. And by the end of your journey in the city, you should head out to the El Totumo Volcano and try bud-bathing.
Relax on the beaches of San Andrés and Providencia Islands
As soon as you want some time away from the cities’ noise and rest after a long hike, the beaches of San Andrés and Providencia Islands are the place to go. The white sands of the beaches and the waters are both relaxing and great for some watersports.
If watersports are among your favorites, be sure to try Scuba Diving at the San Andrés and Providencia Islands. They are a favorite spot for divers because of the beautiful world under the waters.
More Things to Do in Colombia
The country is filled with things to do and try as you travel and explore all the parts of Colombia. Among your destinations, be sure to try their famous coffee and even visit a coffee plantation.
You might also keep in mind that there are a lot of islands to explore. If you enjoy discovering, there is more out there to be seen than listed above. While looking for new islands, you might stumble upon a different aspect of the local culture and learn about their lifestyles and games.
Whenever you start planning your adventure to Colombia, keep in mind that this place’s celebrations and events are unique experiences. If possible, visit during a carnival or festival and join the celebrations to dance among the locals.
Local Transportation in Colombia
Taxis are working in all cities and towns, but make sure to get in real taxis. Some tourists have the experience of getting in a fake cab and while the driver has left them behind having their belongings.
Biking is very popular in Colombia. You can rent this vehicle in tourist areas, and you can even have a road trip by bicycle. Roads are safe, and finding a repair shop is possible anywhere.
In Colombia, only Medellín has a Metro transportation system connecting major spots of the city. It’s the best way of getting around the city.
Motorbike taxis are common in small towns and villages. As a tip, try to avoid these taxis as they can be very unsafe!
SITP and TransMileno are the cheapest ways of getting around in Bogota, and passengers should use a Tullave card if they want to use both systems or download Moovit and TransmiSitp for the costs and routes.
BRT is available in major cities of Colombia like Bogota, covering major spots of the cities.
Uber has some legal regulations in Colombia, but it’s available for you with both economic and high-end options.
Intercity Transportation in Colombia
Air travel is the best way of getting around in Colombia. It may be more expensive; however, it’s definitely worth it. Booking your ticket online is cheaper than buying tickets in agencies or airline offices.
There is only one railway route in Colombia for tourist trains running from Bogatá’s Sabana station to Zipaquira and Parque Jaime Duque Briceño.
The bus is the most-widely used way of transportation in Colombia. Most routes are safe, but you must check blogs and forums to see whether your route is suitable for bus traveling or not!
You can travel to some places in Colombia by boat, such as Nuqui and Providencia Island. You should book your seat for two weeks in advance since it’s limited!
Flight Deals to Colombia
Colombia Travel Costs
|Hostel Dorm Rooms||30,000-45,000 COP ($9-14 USD) – it’s lower in small cities and towns|
|Private Hostel Rooms||Starts around 50,000 COP ($15.50 USD)|
|Budget hotels||60,000 COP ($18 USD) per night – 120,000 ($36 USD) on the coast and in high seasons|
|Nice boutique hotels||Around 658,533 COP ($200 USD) or more a night|
|Airbnb||around 35,000 COP ($11 USD) per night|
|Entire Home or Apartment||90,000 COP ($28 USD) – 250,000 COP ($78 USD)|
|Local Foods||10,000-15,000 COP ($3-5 USD) per meal – 5,000-10,000 ($1.50-3 USD) in the countryside|
|cheap food (like empanadas)||200-500 COP ($0.06-0.15 USD)|
|Arepa||3,000 COP ($0.90 USD)|
|Ceviche||15,000 COP ($4.55 USD)|
|Western Food||20,000-30,000 COP ($6-9 USD) – 5,000 COP ($4.55 USD) for McDonald or Subway|
|Beer||Starts around 2,500 COP ($0.75 USD)|
|Cocktail||around 20,000 COP ($6 USD).|
|Grocery Shopping||110,000 COP ($34 USD) per week|
|Metro (Medellin)||2,500 COP ($0.76 USD) for a one-way fare|
|Local Buses||1,000-2,5000 COP ($0.30-0.80 USD)|
|Uber||You can pretty much get anywhere at around 16,463 COP ($5 USD)|
|Intercity Buses||Bogota to Medellin (65,000 COP – $20 USD)/ Bogota – Quito (175,000 COP – $54 USD)|
Best Hotels in Colombia
Find the best hotels in Colombia using our best price search engine, or go with one of our All-inclusive tours with 4 Star hotels included. You can book our guaranteed hotels for your extra accommodation; before or after your tour days.
Colombia Travel Tips
Street rubbery usually occurs at night in the dark spots of the cities. The best way is to get a cab at night even for short paths.
Public Transportation in Colombia is far beyond slow, especially when you take a bus! The average speed can be 40km/h!
Spanish is the official language in Colombia, and learning some basic language can be helpful. Of course, if you don’t know the language, you won’t face a significant problem, but it can ease your trip and communications.
Polices and soldiers are everywhere, and it’s not because there is a problem, but because there might rise a problem! Also, polices never inspect your passport and money in the street. Be aware of fake plainclothes police officers.
There are many taxi apps like Tappsi, Cabify, and even Uber. The best way of getting around in Colombia is taking taxis by such apps.
Drug tourism is common in Colombia; however, you must avoid them, especially cocaine, since it’s illegal and may face some significant troubles.
First, avoid using ATMs in solitude areas or at nights because there are some tempered ATMs in which scammers install fake keypads and then clone a card. Make sure your keypad is not loose or misleading.
|National emergency number (24-hour general line)||Tel: 123|
|Tourist Police||Tel: (1) 3374413|
|Metropolitan Police||Tel: 112|
|Medical Emergencies||Tel: 125|
|Traffic Police||Tel: 127|
|Red Cross (24 hour ambulance)||Tel: 132|
|Toxicological Centre||Tel: 136|
|Civil Defense||Tel: 144|
|DAS (Security Department)||Tel: 153|
|DIJIN (Directorate of Judicial Police)||Tel: 157|
|GAULA (Kidnapping and Extortion Squad)||Tel: 165|
|Citizen information line||Tel: 195|
|American Embassy Emergency Number||Tel: (1) 2752000|
|British Embassy Switchboard||Tel: (1) 3268300|
|Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia||Tel: (1) 5662008|
|Automobile Club of Colombia 24-hour road service||Tel: (1) 4895050|
|Alcoholics Anonymous (English-speaking meetings)||Tel: (1) 2843428|
Currency & Money Tips
Pesto (COP) is the official currency of Colombia. In this country, people don’t accept the American dollar, and you should exchange your money for the local currency. Pesto is printed in the dominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000 pesos. Besides, this currency’s coins are 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 peso coins. There are also 20 pesos’ coins, but it’s rarely used because of its value.
Interestingly, banks in Colombia usually don’t exchange money, and you should try ATMs or exchangers around the country
The best way of exchanging money in Colombia is through ATMs since it’s safe, and the exchange rate is reasonable.
Airport and Hotel
Exchanging money in airports or hotels is not recommended. Airports only exchange dollars or euro, and their rates are not fair! In hotels, the exchange rate is even higher
Exchanging before the trip
It’s also a good idea to bring some cash and exchange your money at home since you may receive a better rate.
Credit cards are accepted in major cities like Cartagena and Bogota, but you should provide an ID to verify a credit card transaction. Like many South American Countries, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are the most popular credit cards.
Nowadays, unlike in the past, travelers’ cheques are not recommended since they need a verification process and their rate is usually poor.
Food & Drink (Colombian Food)
From north to south, Colombian cuisine includes many fresh ingredients such as their fresh and amazing fruits, vegetables, and meat. The Colombians love everything fried and cooked, and more than that, they used all kinds of meat in their dishes. Since they have the Caribbean coast and islands, they also have their own unique and exotic seafood to try as well. If you find a clean and healthy stall or get inside one of their excellent restaurants, it is best to try their local cuisine and eat what the locals eat.
Simply put, Arepas is a Colombian flatbread made from cornmeal and looks similar to pancakes. The bread may not taste very special on its own, but you should try it for breakfast with some butter and local cheese. Arepas can be used simply for breakfast, purchased from street stalls, or mixed in a meal to create a unique taste. In whichever variation, you can find Arepas. Make sure to give them a try.
Empanadas are deep-fried, simple, yet tasty snacks of the locals. They are like pastries that are stuffed with all kinds of things and spice. The most common combination you can find is potatoes and beef. They are as famous as the Arepas and taste better if they are made by a local’s hands. You can find Empanadas as you explore the streets, but it is possible to find a restaurant that serves them. If you are not a very strict traveler, try them as soon as you see a street stall.
If you ever missed a meal or feel extremely hungry, you’d better look for a plate of Bandeja Paisa. It is a national dish that is very heavy and can keep you full and energetic for several hours. The Bandeja Paisa includes Arepas, grilled beef or pork, chorizo sausages, red beans, avocado, fried plantain, egg, and rice. Bandeja Paisa is a popular national dish that originated in Colombia and was made for workers who would be occupied for long hours.
Feeling hungry? Be sure to try this food because it is rich and nutritious, and very delicious. You should probably try it for lunch as it is too heavy to be had for other meals of the day.
Fritanga is a plate of different types of grilled meat, or in other words, a plate of protein! You can see chicken, beef, pork, chorizo, and morcilla that are sometimes companied with potatoes, tomatoes and big chunks of other vegetables. There are different versions of this dish as well, which means you should ask what is included first. Fritanga is not precisely very healthy, but it is part of the Colombian cuisine and culture, so you should try it if you can.
This meal may be served with Arepas and without forks or knives. Instead, you might get toothpicks to pick the large chunks of meat and vegetables.
Another type of Colombian snacks is Buñuelos. They are small and round balls that look like bread. These small bread-like snacks are filled with cheese and taste a little savory. The more critical aspect of these snacks is that you should try them fresh. Some stalls, just re-heat them and give them to you, which may not be as impressive. Try them fresh and hot, and if you have a local friend, maybe even ask them to make you some tasty Buñuelos.
Pandebono is another small and round shaped snack local to the southern areas of Colombia. They are made of cornmeal, cheese, and eggs. These delicious small bites are best when they are fresh out of the oven, just like the Buñuelos. The brown outside of the Pandebono is crispy, and the inside is rather fluffy.
One of the most common dishes in Colombia is its Sancocho soup. The Sancocho has many versions in all of its regions. Some prefer the thick and creamy version with coconut milk, called the Sancocho de Pescado con Coco. In any case, you should try this stew in your travels. Its main ingredients are usually cob corn, potatoes, chunks of fish, chicken, or beef, with vegetables and herbs. Add a few drops of lemon to this aromatic and tasty mix and enjoy a very healthy local stew.
Posta Negra Cartagena
If you tried Colombian steak and liked it, be sure to have some of their Posta Negra Cartagena. This meal is a tri-tip steak that is slow-cooked and topped with dark-colored syrup. It may look like it is covered with a little chocolate, making the meat sweet, but it is not. The sweet taste is said to be because of some Coca-Cola in this meal, which is not likely. Posta Negra Cartagena is a local food of the Cartagena and has a balanced taste with all the spices and herbs put in it. Be sure not to miss this mouthwatering dish if you love meat!
Arroz con pollo
While in Colombia, try a small plate of Arroz con pollo and feel at home. The name translates to rice and chicken, which are the main ingredients. This simple yet delightful dish of Arroz con pollo gets its fantastic taste and aroma from all the kinds of vegetables mixed into the rice and chicken. You can usually see peas, beans, bell peppers, and avocado on the plate, topped with ketchup. Whatever is inside the Arroz con pollo, you can make it even better with a few drops of lemon and dig in!
If you love seafood, you have to taste some of their Ceviche while near the Caribbean coast. This cold dish of seafood usually includes shrimps, with a chance of seeing shellfish and octopus. Your shrimps will be served with tomato sauce and crackers and will have an acid taste. Of course, there are other vegetables in the dish, making your Ceviche even more flavorful and unique.
A very chewy and tasty kind of beef is the sun-dried steak of Colombians, called the Carne Oreada. The slices of meat are marinated with all kinds of spices and herbs that release their taste as you chew. But they are not all dry and hard to eat as they will be served with boiled yuccas, rice, and a special sauce.
The idea of trying something that you have to chew a lot may not be pleasing but wait till you have tried it. The longer the slices of meat are in your mouth, they release more and more of their already unique flavors.
When you are walking around in the streets, you might see some tasty looking wafers, called Obleas by the locals. These treats are found in most of Colombia and have nuts, jam, chocolate, caramel, condensed milk, and sometimes even more fillings. The Obleas are sweet snacks that are the perfect crispy street snacks.
Colombian Fresh Fruits
Chances are, you will try desserts and snacks that are made with fresh Colombian Fruits, but trying these fruits as a standalone snack is also a good idea. The Colombians have some exotic and amazing fruits that are also famous worldwide. What you want to do is to look for stalls or even restaurants that serve fresh fruits. These native species of Colombian fresh fruits can be exported to other countries and tried outside the country, but the best experience is to have them while in Colombia.
A dish found in all of Latin America is Tamales. Ingredients like corn dough, vegetables, and chicken or pork are wrapped in banana leaves and served. Among the ingredients are potatoes, rice and peas, and all kinds of spices and herbs. As you move from one city to another, you might find a different version. As you travel to the neighboring countries, the same thing will happen; therefore, you better try all the variations of Tamales.
Just be sure not to eat the leaves. Open the wrapping and have some of the delicious fillings.
Another popular snack among Colombians is Patacones, which are green bananas squashed and fried in vegetable oil. They are great as an evening snack that can be taken alone or with something else to make them tastier.
Mobile & Internet
Colombia has an excellent mobile network, and buying SIM cards is not difficult in this country.
Claro is the best company for mobile network services since it offers the most comprehensive LTE coverage. Tigo and Movistar are other companies, but they are not as good as Claro.
How to buy?
There is not any official booth in Bogota’s international airport, but there is a gift shop in the arrival hall selling SIM cards. However, the most reliable place to get the SIM card is in the carrier’s official stores. Besides, some stores like Oxxo, a Mexican convenience store, have little booths selling Claro SIM cards.
Avoid buying SIM cards in kiosks offering discounted SIM cards since the cards are often stolen or blocked.
A Mid-Range SIM card for tourists:
- 20,000 COP
- 2GB to use within 15 days
Holidays & Festivals
|New Year’s Day||1-Jan||1-Jan|
|St Joseph’s Day||22-Mar||21-Mar|
|Ascension Day Holiday||17-May||30-May|
|Corpus Christi Holiday||7-Jun||20-Jun|
|Sacred Heart Day||14-Jun||27-Jun|
|Feast of St Peter and St Paul||5-Jul||4-Jul|
|Battle of Boyacá Day||7-Aug||7-Aug|
Shopping in Colombia
Wayuu mochila bags are the most popular handcraft in Colombia woven by Wayuu People in the Guajira Peninsula desert. Nowadays, you can see these products even in European boutiques as well. In Colombia, you can buy Wayuu mochila directly from the women who create them.
Emeralds in Colombia are unique in the world because of their quality, purity, size, color, and hardness have made them as a unique product in Colombia. When buying emeralds, make sure to buy from accredited jewelers and request a certificate of authenticity.
Colombia is one of the biggest producers of coffee in the world. High-quality coffees can be bought from anywhere in the country, but if you go directly to the coffee farm, you can be sure about the product’s quality.
Chiva Bus is very popular in Colombia. The ceramic replicas are very famous souvenirs from Colombia, and you can buy them from anywhere in the country. They are produced in different colors and sizes.
Colombian Leather Products are trendy worldwide. Different kinds of leather bags, jackets, purses, wallets, belts, accessories, footwear, etc., are available in Colombia with exceptional quality.
Hammock is a handy gift! Colombia manufactures the best quality Hammocks in the world made by Wayuu people in the Caribbean deserts of the Guajira. These hammocks are known as Chinchorros between locals.