Colombia travel advice

Is Colombia safe?

Is it safe?

Rosanna Neophytou from our leading Colombia holidays supplier, Tucan Travel, shares her top Colombia travel advice:
“I didn't really know what to expect before my trip but for me the thing that stood out was just how welcomed and safe I actually felt. The Colombian people are very anxious to remove the negativity that has been associated with the country in the past. Everyone we met was friendly and welcoming. If people do have worries I do suggest a group tour as opposed to independent travel as you will be with an experienced leader and other travellers. Colombia is still fairly new to tourism so you will often find not many people will speak English or understand you. Travelling with a guide means you do not have to worry too much about language barriers but I would recommend practicing Spanish with the locals on your travels as that is all part of the experience.”
Accommodation tips

Accommodation tips

Dan Clarke, from our supplier RealWorld Holidays:
“The standard of accommodation has changed beyond all recognition in recent years. Even the smaller towns now have a smattering of lovely boutique hotels, and some of the restored historic properties in places like Bogotá and Cartagena are just fabulous.”
Food tips

Food tips

Vicki Brown, Responsible Travel’s writer and editor:
“My mistake in the first few days was to try and order non-Colombian food. The pizzas, pasta, wraps were just awful. As soon as I embraced the fried food and carbs, things got so much better. No, it’s not super healthy, and yes, it’s monotonous, but it’s also unbelievably tasty and fresh. Along the Caribbean coast in particular, the fried fish, plantain and coconut rice are incredible. Wash them down with fresh fruit juice followed by a tinto – a ‘shot’ of sweet, black coffee from a street vendor with a thermos flask.”
Packing
advice

Packing advice

Rosanna Neophytou from our supplier, Tucan Travel:
“Bring a Spanish phrase book. Pack for a range of weathers – Bogotá can be quite cold in the evenings whilst Santa Marta and Cartagena get hot hot hot! Pack mosquito spray if you are going to Tayrona or other jungle regions, and prepare for slight altitude feelings if you fly into Bogotá and are not used to high altitude places.”
Why go to Colombia?

Why go to Colombia?

Dan Clarke, from our supplier RealWorld Holidays:
“Colombia doesn’t have a single stand out site like some other countries in South America, but what it does give you is the full package in one place: mysterious, ancient ruins and huge, prehistoric statues; fabulous Caribbean beaches and tropical islands; gorgeous Andean colonial towns; the Amazon jungle plus more amazing wildlife like whale-watching on the Pacific coast… It really is amazing how much it fits in.”
Scott Marquardt from our supplier, Tucan Travel:
“The lack of ‘big name’ highlights is precisely one of the charms of Colombia; although it is getting more popular it is still an undiscovered gem in many ways. Colombia offers lush green scenery, beautiful colonial cities and towns and incredibly friendly people. Even though Colombians are relatively new to hosting tourists they are always very eager to help and are genuinely thankful and happy to receive visitors to their country. The people are definitely one of the highlights, although really there are too many highlights to name! Cocora Valley and its wax palms are truly stunning. And Medellín is a truly fascinating city and it's inspiring to see a place that has gone through so much yet come out the other side to become a gleaming example of how to get urban regeneration right.”
Getting around

Getting around

Scott Marquardt from our supplier, Tucan Travel:
“Keep in mind Colombia is a country made of jungle and mountains, meaning in most places there are no giant freeways and long travel days are occasionally necessary to get from point A to B. Keep an open mind and Colombia will surely be the trip of a lifetime.”
Get to know Gabo

Get to know Gabo

Vicki Brown, Responsible Travel’s writer and editor:
“If you’re heading to Cartagena, read Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. It’s a love story between two people – but it’s also a love letter to Old Cartagena itself, which, on the surface, has changed little since the period in which the book was set, at the turn of the last century. Cartagena brings to life the magic realism that García Márquez was famous for – you’ll feel like you are living inside a novel for a few magical days.”

Our top Colombia Holiday

Colombia holiday, small group

Colombia holiday, small group

From one enticing town to the next, a two week tour of Colombia

From £1159 to £1229 14 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2018: 22 Sep, 13 Oct, 10 Nov, 24 Nov, 22 Dec
2019: 5 Jan, 19 Jan, 2 Feb, 16 Feb, 2 Mar, 16 Mar, 30 Mar, 13 Apr, 27 Apr, 11 May, 25 May, 8 Jun, 22 Jun, 6 Jul, 20 Jul, 3 Aug, 17 Aug, 31 Aug, 14 Sep, 28 Sep, 12 Oct, 26 Oct, 9 Nov, 23 Nov, 7 Dec, 21 Dec
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Colombia or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

Health & safety in Colombia

HEALTH

Visit your GP or travel clinic six to eight weeks before departure to ensure you are up to date with any necessary vaccinations. Take out comprehensive travel insurance, including emergency evacuation, and ensure it covers any activities you plan to do, such as scuba diving or high altitude trekking. The emergency services number is 123. It is safe to drink the tap water in Bogotá, Medellín and Cali. Outside of these cities we recommend using a self filtering water bottle, such as LifeStraw, to avoid the need to buy plastic bottles. Food in Colombia is generally safe. Be aware of the altitude; altitude sickness can kick in anywhere from around 2,500m, which includes Bogotá. If trekking in the mountains, take time to acclimatise, drink plenty of water, take it easy and descend if you feel ill; even a couple of hundred metres can help. Alcohol makes symptoms much worse. You may need anti malarial medication if travelling to the Amazon or the Pacific Coast, particularly during the April to November rainy season. Take precautions against mosquito bites; this will also protect you from other diseases such as dengue. Zika is present in Colombia, although this generally only presents a serious risk if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Colombia sits on the equator, and the sun is very strong. It is even more harmful at high altitudes, so be sure to wear very high factor sunscreen in the mountains – even if it is cold and overcast. Hats, sunglasses and long sleeved shorts are also recommended.

SAFETY

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to certain regions of Colombia. Do not visit these areas; violent crimes and kidnappings still occur. These do not affect any popular tourist areas, but do check for the most up to date information before departure on the FCO website. Because many of the remote parts of Colombia are unsafe, you will need to fly to certain tourist destinations to avoid traveling through them. These include Nuquí on the Pacific coast, and Leticia in the Amazon. For safety reasons, it is not advisable to trek to the Ciudad Perdida – the Lost City – in the Sierra Nevada Santa, without being part of a guided, organised tour. Although Colombia has high crime rates, this is not the kind of crime that is likely to affect tourists, and it is generally a very safe place to travel. Just act sensibly, as you would in any destination: don’t carry large amount of cash, leave valuables at home or avoid having them on display, and avoid walking around poorer districts, particularly at night. Your holiday company and guide will be able to advise. There is still civil unrest in Colombia, and protests and marches are not uncommon. Stay well clear of any demonstrations.

COLOMBIA ADVICE FROM TRAVELLERS

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.
We have selected some of the most useful Colombia travel advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
There were many highlights - Colombia is such a varied country it felt as if we had several holidays in one…
– Erin Turner
“Colombia is vast, it is several landscapes and peoples that can be read and discovered as you travel. It is at times, tough and challenging, but even then it can be sublime; many parts of the Caribbean coast remain welcomingly untrodden, with a huge sense of release, without feeling part of the herd. But if you want to party, you will never have to go far. Most of the misgivings about Colombia are now misconceptions; just travel sensibly. It really helps to learn at least basic Spanish, it is the great liberator, and will magnify the rewards for a lifetime.” – Weng Yee

“Be aware of the temperature and humidity when trekking in the jungle. I had not really taken into account that the entire trip would be in the jungle and therefore hot and humid every day. Also if you are not very fit that some training is necessary as it is a challenging trek.” – Lisa Lawton

Most memorable was our visit to Comuna 13 favela in Medellin… I think that the local people (especially Medellin) appreciated us coming to their towns as it proves that the image of Colombia is changing for the better.
– Dave Kerr
"Hot and cold weather clothing required! Lots of mosquito repellent too. Do learn Spanish as not much English spoken.” – Trish Standaloft

“Getting in and out of Tayrona is really for people who are extremely fit and know something (anything) about riding a horse. The cabin was lovely, but Tayrona is still definitely a backpackers' destination because of how hard it is to access. You should definitely love heat and humidity and be prepared for the altitude in Bogota. Learn some Spanish before you go. I was really grateful at certain points that I could communicate. If you didn't know any Spanish, you could have really been stuck, trying to tell a taxi driver where to go, etc. We appreciated the small hotels and local guides. We also appreciated the 5-hour drive from Tayrona to Cartagena because it gave us a glimpse into every type of life in Colombia--the slums, the big industrial city, the pretty coastline, the flat swamp lands, etc.” – Anne Maertz

Written by Vicki Brown
Photo credits: [Page banner: Nick Harris] [Bogota: Michael Barón] [Hotel room: Haciendas Cafeteras, Hacienda Hotel Bambusa,Triángulo del Café] [Fried fish: Luz Adriana Villa] [Suitcase: Resi Kling] [Cartagena: Reg Natarajan] [Cartagena from above: sergejf] [Inside bus: young shanahan] [Old cartagena: Austin adverntures] [Protest: inyucho] [Traveller: Dan Gold] [Rainforest: stokpic] [Favela: Milo Miloezger]
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