Visit Colombia – Everything You Should Know
If planning to visit the South American country, here is a list with everything you should know about Colombia.
Colombia is a beautiful country, rich in diversity ––it is known for having the largest variety of birds, and the second of butterflies, and frogs ––, fun celebrations all year long –– from the Barranquilla Carnival, to the Feria de Cali––, and amazing gastronomy. It is also marked by a past of violence that has followed Colombia’s reputation for quite a long time. But if you are ready to give this country a chance, here is ever you should know before taking a flight to Colombia.
Even though Colombian great coffee and emeralds are less famous than Pablo Escobar or the guerrillas, the truth is Colombia has been safe for tourism since 2007. More than twelve years. And it is not that every territory in the country is completely secure. But those places where violence is still alive are known for their political complexity, and as a tourist you can stay away from them. The recommendation is always following the advice of the natives: do not carry jewelry or valuable items in plain sight, don’t walk alone at night in dark areas, before choosing a destination ask a local travel agency for everything you should know about Colombia in terms of security, do not take street taxis (always call one).
Colombia’s weather does not depend on the time of the year, but on the altitude of the place you are going. Because Colombia has so many different altitudes, and every one of its six regions is so different one from the other in terms of landscape and heights, the recommendation is packing according to the cities where you are going: fall garment if you are going to Bogota; summer clothing if you are going to the Caribbean, Pacific, or the jungle; spring attire if you are going to Medellin. Do your Google research on everything you should know about Colombia’s weather before packing.
Colombia is crossed by the Andes and other mountain systems, that is why going from one city to the other by land, could take longer than you expect. For example, even though Cartagena is one thousand kilometers away from Bogota, it would take around eighteen hours by bus and only one hour by plain. In that case, there are low cost airlines like Viva Colombia, and Wingo. If, on the other hand, you are traveling between nearby cities like Cartagena to Santa Marta, or Bogota to Medellin, most inter municipal buses are comfortable, safe and cheap to go.
When it comes to public transportation within the cities, places like Bogota and Medellin have pretty decent systems like Transmilenio and the Metro. In other cities, it would be best to take taxis, but ask for the price beforehand. Otherwise, they will charge more if you have an accent.
Because of the diversity of temperatures, altitudes, and soil Colombia has, food also varies according to the place you visit, and also the cultural background of the city. If you go to the Caribbean, the food is spiced with lots of tomatoes and chilly, and they love frying everything. People from the Andes serve most dishes with potatoes. And the south is all about spices from the Amazonas. If you want to learn everything you should know about Colombia, the recommendation is trying as many fruits as possible, visit the local public markets, eat ajiaco, patacon, bandeja paisa, fried food from the street vendors of the Caribbean, piracucú, atollado rice. And if you can afford it, pay a visit to Leo and El Chato restaurants, considered two of the best restaurants in Latin America according to the 50 Best Restaurants Ranking.
- Money and prices
The currency in Colombia is the Colombian Peso. One Dollar is about 3.200 pesos, and one Euro is 3.600 pesos. Having a meal in an average restaurant could cost around 50.000 pesos, that is less than 15 dollars and 12 euros. A bus ride oscillates between 2.500, and 3.200. Again, less than a dollar.
- Health insurance and disease prevention
It is not required to have a specific vaccine or health insurance to enter Colombia, but it is highly recommended. Especially, if you are visiting places with tropical weather like the Caribbean, the Pacific coast, or the Amazonia. Before visiting the country, get informed and, at least, get the influenza, and yellow fever shots (especially if visiting during raining season). In order to prevent gastric diseases, make sure you eat in restaurants and diners with hygiene certificates. Natives might have stronger stomachs than those who are visiting.
Spanish is the official language of Colombia. There are several indigenous tongues all throughout the country, but everyone speaks the main language. If you are not strong in Spanish, you may find people who are fluent in English, but mostly in main cities. A fine travel agency would be of great help to plan in advance all the important things like flights, hotels, restaurant recommendations, and, if possible, a bilingual guide.
We all know that Colombia is famous for the drug cartels and the vast production of drugs. It has been in the international news for decades. Nonetheless, most Colombians would not use, and hate to be associate with cocaine and Pablo Escobar. If you make the decision to consume during your visit to the country, make sure you understand it is illegal. Find a reliable supplier, and keep yourself company during all times.