We’ve reached the end of the Colombia series! It’s only taken me… what? Over six months? I think I’m going to sit down and write all my Ottawa posts this weekend so that it doesn’t take so long to get through them all! I wanted to end the Colombia posts with a roundup that includes some of the tips & tricks that I’ve shared with some family, who are currently tromping around this country that I fell in love with (because chances are high you will fall in love with Colombia!) and that I’ve given in bits and pieces to some coworkers who will be visiting this summer. Keep in mind, look at this post as having coffee with a friend who’s sharing tips from her experience. If you plan to travel to Colombia, be sure to do your own research as well and if you have any concerns, look into those before you travel. That’s such an important thing to do no matter where you go.
>> I was lucky when it came to transportation, as I have family who live in Colombia. They arranged my tour guide, who drove me around when my relatives were unable to, and when they were available, they have a car that we used. I would recommend hiring a car to move around. Ask your hotel if they can arrange for taxis when needed.
>> One of the questions I’m asked about is safety. I didn’t feel unsafe while I was out in the city. Sometimes I was on my own, usually in a nice area, most of the time I was with someone. We entered some neighborhoods on the graffiti tour that I wouldn’t want to spend time in on my own. Our graffiti tour guide warned us about pickpockets in one alleyway that we entered. Basically, keep in mind the general safety tips that you should keep in mind anywhere–even in your own city. Walk with purpose. Be aware of your surroundings, be aware of the people around you, be aware of your bag and the items that you are taking with you. (It might be worth noting that I spend quite a bit of time in a neighborhood of Minneapolis that many people are uncomfortable in, so this is just how I operate in general.) Basically, be vigilant and cautious, as you should be anywhere. People are very nice, so be courteous, but don’t be too nice so that you attract unwanted attention. (A lesson I learned in Vienna. I’m not rude, but I don’t smile at people on the street anymore.)
>> I used a mix of cash and cards. Credit cards are widely accepted. In fact, I’m not sure if I entered an establishment that didn’t accept them. I left with over half of the cash that I brought with.
>> Tipping at restaurants. This was something that I always stress over when I travel, because I want to make sure that I’m leaving tips appropriately. I usually tipped about 10%. Be sure to check your bill–some restaurants add the tip in. It’ll appear as “propina.”
>> Phones. I had access to a phone while I was there, but I’d be willing to pay for coverage for my cell while traveling. Call your service provider to see how much it would cost. It’s $10 a day for me and that’s an expense I’d be willing to take on.
>> Language. I’d recommend brushing up on Spanish before you go. If you don’t know much, look for language translation apps on your phone. I have a relative who used a language app while visiting and that came in handy.
You’ll Want to Bring:
>> Layers. Bogota is typically in the 60 – 70 degree range all year because of how it’s situated in the mountains. Nestor, my tour guide, usually had a jacket on. I was fine with a sweatshirt.
>> An umbrella/some sort of rain gear. I didn’t have any heavy duty rain gear (I’m sure that changes seasonally though, so check the weather for the time of year you’re traveling to see what the weather will be like) but I carried an umbrella everywhere. It rained a little bit once a day–usually in the afternoon.
>> Good walking shoes. You’ll be walking a lot and the sidewalks aren’t always even.
>> SUNSCREEN! And USE it! I got the worst sunburn I’ve had–at least that I can remember–while on the graffiti tour and it was PAINFUL. I feel like the sun is kind of deceptive there. You’re close to the equator, but it doesn’t really seem like the sun is that intense. I noticed that my chest was a little red when I got back, but that happens to me on a summer day in Minnesota. (I fry in the sun.) I thought it would be a little red that day and be gone the next day, as per usual. I SHOULD have taken a cold shower to get the heat out, because that sunburn kept baking and it hurt. I lathered up every day after that. So: take sunscreen and use it. (This isn’t the best photo of me, but it shows off that sunburn really well!)
>> Monserrate. This wasn’t my favorite attraction, but you have to do it when you’re in Bogota. It was really cool to see the entire city and the rest of the time I was amazed every time I saw it and thought, “I was just up there!”
>> Bogota Graffiti Tour. I consider this a must when visiting Bogota. I’ve developed a huge passion for street art that I never anticipated I’d have after going on this tour. There’s so much street art, so I’d highly recommend learning about it. Go early in your trip so that you can pick out different artists during the rest of your trip.
>> Hacienda Coloma. If you’re interested in learning more about coffee production, but don’t need to take a trip out to coffee country and do an actual coffee tour, a tour of this coffee farm will satisfy you.
>> Salt Cathedral. I personally think this is another must. It’s such a beautiful cathedral and it’s so unique!
>> Gold Museum. I’m putting this in, even though I have yet to get visit the Gold Museum, just because it came so highly recommended from every tour guide I encountered and the people I know who toured the museum said it was amazing.
>> Travel outside of Bogota if you have a chance and experience a different part of the country! I haven’t done this yet, but it’s on my bucket list. Cartagena is a big attraction and Medellin was recommended by my tour guide at the Salt Cathedral.
A Glimpse of My Trip
Beyond the photos. 🙂
Have you been to Colombia? What are some of your tips? If you haven’t visited, would you be interested and what captures your attention the most?