Colombia recap

Now that’s it’s been nearly two weeks since I left Colombia, I put together a recap for myself and other travelers who may want to visit the locations I’ve mentioned. I’m in Peru, but I definitely left my heart in Colombia.

Days in Colombia: 28

Cities visited: 

Bogota– 5 nights

Sogamoso– 2 nights

San Gil– 3 nights

Medellin– 5 nights

Santa Marta- 2 nights

Palomino- 2 nights

Ciudad Perdida- 1 night

Cartagena- 7 nights

Favorite Hostel: The Dreamer, Palomino

Hostel or resort? Hard to tell

Hostel or resort? Hard to tell

Most Fun Hostel: The Pit Stop, Medellin

Worst Hostel: El Tamarindo, Medellin

Most overrated Hostel: El Viajero, Cartagena

Couchsurfing: 4 nights

Private rooms: 1

Private room at El Viajero complete with broken fan and no AC

Private room at El Viajero complete with broken fan and no AC

Stomach bugs: 1

Incidents of puking: 2 (neither alcohol related)

Activities: 

Canoeing

Waterfall rappelling

Paragliding

Swimming

Hiking

Bandaids used: 1

Best meal: El Bistro, Cartagena

Restaurant meals eaten alone: 3

Restaurant meals I wished I was alone: Too many to count

Buses: 13

Flights: 4

Flights missed: 1

Best moment: Landing on Ciudada Perdida in a helicopter

(free) Helicopter ride into a Archaeological site: Check

(free) Helicopter ride into an Archaeological site: Check

Times I walked alone at night: 4

Times afraid while walking alone at night: 1

Bogota vs. Medellin: Medellin

Best nightlife: Medellin

Best Beach: Playa Blanca near Cartagena- side note I didn’t make it to Tayrona 😦

The underrated Playa Blanca is a 40 minute ferry ride from Cartagena

The underrated Playa Blanca is a 40 minute ferry ride from Cartagena

Things I’ll miss about Colombia: 

The fruit

The most friendly people I’ve ever met

The lively atmosphere of plazas

Things I won’t:

Rice & beans with every meal

Service

After spending two weeks in Panama in January, I was pleasantly surprised by the superior level of service with a few exceptions on the coast. People move slowly at times but very little tip is included and/or necessary so have patience.

Transportation

Buses will take nearly anywhere you want to go, and all you have to do is show up at the bus station. If your Spanish is decent and you have a knack for bargaining give it your best shot at the ticket window, it worked for me about half of the time. Bus schedules aren’t meant to be taken seriously, but I noticed they usually left within 10-15 minutes of scheduled time. Note that I took ~13 long distance (at least 4+ hours) buses, so my sample size is relatively small.

Unless flying major worldwide alliance airline (Copa, Lan, Avianca) don’t expect much. I had three Avianca flights and all three were delayed an hour, but that was just coincidence I’m sure. Get to the airport early and expect lines to move painfully slow, and don’t expect pity if you’re close to missing your flight and need to check in ASAP.. ain’t happenin’!

When leaving Colombia don’t be surprised when the police go through your bags piece by piece, looking for drugs I’d assume– otherwise security is a joke. Another side note, don’t even think about trying to sneak in eyebrow scissors in your carry-on– if you saw my eyebrows now you’d understand.

Parting thoughts:

Colombia is a hidden gem that exceeded my expectations is nearly every way. Unlike other Latin American cultures most of the facilities appeared tidy and most bathrooms had toilet paper and soap. I realize this is a strange thing to mention, but it’s a pet peeve of mine in Latin America.. especially when you’re in the only bathroom of a restaurant and there’s no soap. When do you think the cook washed his hands last?

Traveling in the country is relatively easy to figure out with the help of google and The Lonely Planet Colombia Guidebook (pay little attention to prices in the guidebook, even the 2013 edition is terribly off). The cost of traveling in Colombia wasn’t as cheap as I’d expected, and I believe I ended up spending ~$50 a day, excluding flights and shopping. If you plan to do any treks or adventure sports budget more.

Very few people outside of those working in hospitality industry in large cities spoke English, and many people seem embarrassed to speak it. If you’re from The US expect to be treated like a rock star in the interior of the country– many Colombians LOVE American culture, music, movies. It wasn’t unusual to see a man wearing a San Francisco Giants hat or a LA Lakers t-shirt, just because it’s “cool”. Just telling locals I lived in California evoked a starry-eyed grin.

People in the interior of the Country are some of the friendliest, most genuine people I’ve met. Because tourism still hasn’t infiltrated the interior like the coast,  people seem genuinely happy to have visitors.

Of course these notes are based solely upon my month long experience in Colombia and my are observations and opinions, go to Colombia and see for yourself.

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4 responses to “Colombia recap

  1. I’m going to Colombia this May and will be traveling around the country! I loved this post I found it very helpful. Are there any places you wish you would have gone? I plan to do a bunch of traveling around the country and want to know where I should and should not go. Thanks!

    • Hi Calida,

      I’m jealous.. wish I was back there! Definitely go to Salento in the Coffee Region and Tayrona.. really sad I missed those two. Have a great time!

      • Thank you for the suggestions! I will make sure to not miss those places; I was for sure planning on visiting Parque Tayrona and have heard from everyone that it is a must see! I appreciate the help!

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