First, it’s Colombia, not Columbia! If you’re planning a trip to Colombia, here are important things you need to know before visiting this South American gem.
Do you want to vacation somewhere off the beaten path? Are you wanting to visit a country rich in diversity, history and a temperate climate? Then Colombia is the perfect destination for you.
If you’re planning a trip to Colombia, here are some important things you need to know before visiting this South American gem.
1. Before Leaving on Your Trip to Colombia, Learn Some Spanish
You may know some basic Spanish from your high school days or picked up a few words conversationally here and there. Knowing a few basics will help you when getting around the big cities, but you will want to learn more if you plan on venturing further out.
Most people in Colombia do not speak English so you will struggle to communicate if you don’t know a decent amount of Spanish. This is especially beneficial when you need to get a decent price for traveling on the busses or learning more about the cultural heritage and history of the locations you are visiting.
Also, the language spoken in Colombia is more on the formal side, and introductions are not reduced to a simple hello. Be prepared to exchange a lengthy discussion about how you, your family and even your pets are doing before asking someone the question you intended to ask. This is considered polite by the local custom and you do not want to be rude by not being prepared for these types of exchanges.
2. Avoid the Holiday Seasons
When you start planning your travel to Colombia, pay attention to the dates you want to visit. Colombians love their holidays and the cities will become teeming with people at these times.
If you plan on visiting Colombia during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays or during the Semana Santa celebration, book your lodgings well in advance and expect there to be lots of crowds and price hikes on room and board. If you don’t reserve your accommodations early enough you run the risk of not finding anywhere to stay with vacancy.
3. Try the Coffee
Colombia is well known for its delicious high-quality coffee beans, so of course, you have to try some while you are in the country of its source.
Locals drink a type of coffee that is known as Tinto. Tinto is an inexpensive, small cup of sweetened coffee that is usually sold at roadside stands. Tinto is not the high-quality coffee that is exported out of the country because it is usually too expensive for the locals to drink.
If you would like to order the top-notch premium beans for a cup of coffee you will need to visit a coffee shop and ask for it specifically. You can also take a trip to one of the organic coffee farms in the country to find out more about how they harvest and process the beans that are so special to the area.
When it comes to transportation there are a few different options to get around Colombia and see the site.
You can hire a taxi by asking the hotel you are staying at or the restaurant you are eating at to call one for you. This is the safer route so you get a reputable taxi service. Uber is illegal here so be wary of those claiming they are working for the company because you might not want to get involved with it.
Busses are a prevalent mode of transportation, you can travel easier this way if you have a group of people. Most busses charge by the route, to get the best deal buy your fare at the ticket booth so you can compare the pricing between different companies. You can also negotiate your rate down if you feel that it is a bit too high.
If you are trying to maximize your time and see as much as possible you can book a flight on one of the two airlines that offer flights internally in Colombia. This is a great way to see everything and skip the long commutes on a bus.
5. Be Mindful of the Security
Colombia has had a history of civil war and drug cartels so there is a strong presence of police and military everywhere.
Seeing the police and soldiers on every corner may take some time to adjust to but keep in mind, they are not there because something is happening. They are there to protect you and the citizens and make sure that there will be no problems. Do not let your guard down though, still, be mindful of your valuables and your surroundings. You can still be a victim of pickpocketing or other theft if you are not careful.
Since Colombia has had such a strong history of drugs taking a toll on their society it is also taboo to talk about or discuss it, even if you are just being curious. The locals find the topic very insulting and it’s best to avoid the subject altogether.
6. Carry Cash
It may seem a bit risky to keep cash on you when traveling in another country but most places will not accept your credit card. There are ATMs in the bigger cities so be sure to withdraw enough cash for your trip if you are venturing outside of town.
Another thing to keep in mind is that tipping your waiter or service staff are not asked for or expected in Colombia. The tip is usually worked into the price of the meal so if you would like to give your waiter an additional amount, be sure to hand it to them separately.
7. Slow Down and Enjoy
Time moves a little slower in Colombia so take this opportunity to slow down and relax. Enjoy the slower pace of the people around you and don’t expect anyone to rush around.
Colombians also frown upon public displays of anger or frustration, it’s viewed as highly unattractive and unnecessary. If you feel like you are being overwhelmed by a situation or something isn’t going according to plan, take some deep breaths and do as the locals do, slow down and enjoy the simpler way of life.
Are You Ready to Love Colombia?
It’s time to pack a bag and grab your sunscreen and set off on a trip to Colombia you will never forget! Be sure to visit our website daily for more travel tips and advice!