Experience Colombia: What to pack and what to expect in Colombia
Traveling to Colombia used to be synonymous with a death wish but that couldn’t be farther from the truth today. This beautiful South American country has worked hard to transform its shady past into the shining gem of the continent. Colombia has seen an unprecedented tourism boom in the last couple of years. Tour groups and independent travelers are all trying to experience the authenticity of the place and people before mass tourism spoils it.
Traveling independently in Colombia is a very rewarding experience but many travelers are still cautious, preferring organized tours. Here at Unquote Travel, we have come up with our Experience Colombia Tour. Our small group trip will bring you not only to see how beautiful the country is but will also get you closer to the local culture and people so you can experience how warm and friendly Colombians are.
Here are some things you’ll experience in Colombia on our trip.
What to pack and what to expect in Colombia
Electricity: The standard voltage is 110 volt/ 60 Hz. The sockets used are of type A and B. http://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets/ab/ Need an adapter?
Currency: The official currency in Colombia is the Colombian peso (COP). 1USD≈3,000COP. The exchange rate can fluctuate quite a lot from one day to the other.
Weather: Colombia has a varied climate. It is warm and tropical in the coastal areas to the north and west of the country, as well as the Amazon region, with temperatures hovering around 32°C (89.6°F) during the day, and 27°C (80.6°F) at night. The climate is cooler in the upland areas, such as Bogotá and the coffee country, with average highs of 19°C (66.2°F) and average lows of 8°C (46.4°F). Medellin, the city of eternal spring, has a temperate climate with daytime temperatures of 27°C (80.6°F) and 18°C (64.4°F) at night.
Tipping: Tipping is not expected in Colombia, except in high-end establishments. However, locals tend to leave small change from the balance of their bills in restaurants and cafes.
Safety and security: Tens of thousands of visitors travel safely in Colombia each year. Security has improved significantly in the last decade or so. Travel destinations, such as Bogotá, Medellin, and Cartagena, are generally safe. However, drug-related violence still affects the poor areas – “comunas” (shanty towns) – in large cities. It is advisable not to take long-distance buses at night, even though there are regular police check points in major touristy routes. For our tour, our only long-distance bus ride is during day time.
The main concern most travelers will have is petty crime, such as pickpockets and mugging. It’s not a common occurrence, and can be avoided as long as you exercise common sense and take some precautions, especially in crowded places, i.e. buses, metro, restaurants, etc. It’s important to be vigilant and be aware of what you’re taking out into the city when you go and what time it is, etc.
1 day bag: Preferably something small, to carry drinking water, umbrella, sunblock, etc.
1 luggage/backpack: You don’t have to carry a backpack. Use whatever type of luggage you are comfortable with. Know that you’ll be responsible for carrying your own bag. Using public transportation, we’ll want to maintain our mobility. For this reason, and luggage allowance on domestic flights, you’re encouraged to pack as lightly as possible.
*Please note: domestic flights have ONE free checked luggage up to 20kg, and one hand luggage up to 10kg. Extra weight for the first luggage is USD3/kg and USD50 for the second piece of luggage.
Generally, traveling in Colombia requires light clothing suitable for hot and warm weather. So t-shirts, quick-dry shirts, etc. You can also bring long-sleeve shirts for protection from the sun. Bogota and the coffee country get cold at night, so you should pack a warm sweater and a jacket for this. Since we will be traveling from cold to cool to hot regions, layering is the key.
We will be doing walking tours in three cities so a pair of comfortable walking shoes is recommended. We will also be doing a short hike in Valle de Cocora, so it would be ideal, but not necessary, to have a pair of hiking shoes as well. Or you can use your walking shoes for the short hike. Don’t forget to pack a pair of slippers/sandals. This is useful for bathroom, beaches, as well as airing your out feet after a day of walking.
Our packing recommendation
Necessary items to help your travel in Colombia
First Aid: If you are taking or need certain medications please bring extra. You can get them from the pharmacies here but they might have them in different dosage. We have one long distance bus ride, so bring motion sickness pills if you are prone to motion sickness.
Refillable water bottle: The tap water in Colombia is potable but if you prefer to be safe, you can buy bottled mineral water.
Spare batteries for your electronics and memory cards: You will be able to charge up your batteries at night but we are sure that you will be taking a lot of photos, so it’s good to have spare batteries and memory cards.
Moneybelt: Wear moneybelt and keep your passport, money, credit and ATM cards in it.
Cash: You will be responsible for some of the meals and you will have free time to do your own exploration and/or buy souvenirs, so you might want to have extra cash with you. Colombia is not an expensive country: e.g: a meal would cost about USD 3-5 in a local eatery and USD 5-7 in a restaurant, while a can of beer costs about USD 1.5. But remember, things cost more in touristy areas.
ATM Withdrawal: The are ATM machines everywhere and most accept foreign cards, as long as it’s Visa, Mastercard, AMEX, etc. But there is a limit per withdrawal plus a service fee. The limit and fee vary depending on the bank. For example, BBVA withdrawal limit is 600,000 COP (USD 197) with a USD 3 service fee. It is a good idea to carry some US dollars or Euros to exchange in case of emergency. (US dollars are more widely accepted than Euros)
Laundry: There will be chances to do your laundry during the trip. Some of the guesthouses we stay in will offer this service at an extra charge. Otherwise, there will usually be a few laundry shops littered around the guesthouse’s vicinity.