I left my heart in Colombia! Colombia wasn’t my first choice and I was actually debating whether to go to Argentina or Colombia at the time. Fortunately, for me, Colombia won that debate and I’ve had the most unforgettable experiences there.
I wish I could’ve stayed in Colombia long as the people were friendly, the vibe is great, weather is hot and there’s just so much to do.
I will write a separate blog posts on the places I went to but here are some things to think about if you are making a trip to Colombia:
Here are my top tips on Colombia:
- Before flying to Colombia, they have to see a ticket of you exiting the country whether its another flight out, boat or coach ticket. Otherwise, I’ve experienced that they will not let you board the plane and I’ve had to rush to buy another ticket out of Colombia (even though I wasn’t planning a timeframe here).
- You can claim back the VAT on purchases!! That’s right – you can buy some new clothes or shoes from licensed retailers and claim back the VAT at the airport. As always, there are some rules so check out this post to find out more.
- Learn some Spanish – A LOT of people do not speak Spanish so best to learn the lingo.
- It’s a MUST to do a Salsa class! There is a dance studio that offers your first class for free and they will make you switch dance partners throughout the evening so you can see different moves and meet different people.
- If you are a tourist staying less than 60 days and do not reside in Colombia – you do not need to pay bedroom tax. Some hostels/hotels will try it on to charge you and you just need to show them the stamp in your passport and the officer ticks a ‘PIP’ number – if its number 5 then you are exempt. Check before you pay as it’s extremely difficult to get this refunded and I had a MASSIVE issue. The owner tried to play dumb even though they knew they were in the wrong but I managed to get free washing out of it.
- Public transport is relatively good and they price things by per journey (i.e. 4,000 COP per journey) rather than zones etc. There are frequent buses too but I’ve met a lot of people who have got lost and ended up an hour away from town so make sure you ask someone in Spanish to double check the destination.
- Uber – this is technically illegal here as cabs will get fined however, no one likes to be conned by a regular taxi driver so if you get an Uber, you will need to sit in the front so it looks like you are ‘friends’.
- If you are staying long, there are places where you can learn Spanish and they can tutor you as well as Language Exchange Evenings so you can practice with locals.
- If you are booking day trips and tours – if you’re not in a rush, do it on arrival when you get information from leaflets at the hostel or hotels. Most of my bookings were done via whatsapp. Once I had the leaflet and contact info – I would message them to check the rate and availability then SORTED! I would browse tours online and noticed it was quite expensive and was so much cheaper for me to book direct. I would imagine this is due to the commissions they have to pay to the booking platform but if you are on a budget, I would wait until you arrive at the destination.
- ATM’s – the two banks that I found that didn’t charge a fee was BBVA and Dadavienda. Make sure you use ATM in banks and not just random ones in the wall as if the machine sucks your card then you can go into the bank for help and retrieve it back otherwise, if it was a hole in a wall; well it’s lost. Also, most banks have a glass box that you enter to use the cash machine to make sure no one is lingering behind you.
Airlines – there are many airlines that fly domestically in Colombia; you have the major airlines like Avianca (who I’ve had bad experiences with) and the budget airlines that are affordable as well as competitively priced (even if you buy luggage) like Copa, Latam and Vivaair. Most people think getting a bus is cheaper when you’re moving from cities but in Colombia, I’ve experienced that the cost of a bus ticket was the same cost as a flight AND the bus journey takes FOREVER. So I recommend that you double check costs etc as that’s a full day of activities that’s out the window if I took a bus journey.
People – I LOVE Colombians and a lot of travellers have said they haven’t met many as they were staying in ‘tourist’ places. I have to disagree with this as you have to put yourself out there in order to meet people (whether they are Colombian or fellow travellers). I met people at my hostels and we all decided to go to a bar crawl and some of these bar crawls are ran by very fun locals who invited to go out on other nights (outside the Poblado area) as well as do other activities. But then again, I might have been lucky to have met some great people.
That’s just a quick summary and I wish I had more time to see other places ie Solento, Barranquilla, Cartagena and San Andres but I have to live through other travellers.
One thing is for sure though, I will DEFINITELY be back again to Colombia!