After traveling to 30 countries around the world, we can definitely say Colombia is one of the most incredible places we have ever been to. The unique energy in the air and the incredible nature made us fell in love with this country. For some reason, we spent almost 4 months there 😀

(See our best moments of Colombia in this video)

Colombia has it all! From paradisiac beaches to adventure hubs with crazy landscapes in the mountains. From beautiful historical sites to almost untouched indigenous communities. Colombia is even home to one of the biggest bio-diversities in the world. Imagine all this in just one country!

It is hard not to be very happy in this country and if it isn’t in your list yet, trust us, it MUST be! This article was written to improve your chances to have an amazing time there. Hope you like it!

Heading to Colombia? Travel safe with Iati Seguros, our favorite travel insurance. Insurances made for travellers with the best prices on the market, flexible plans and high medical coverages. Click this link for an immediate 5% discount on any plan! Safe travels 🙂

Don’t have much time? Jump now to:

Some important thoughts before starting:
Please, don’t contribute to the Colombian drug tourism. Colombia is so much more than that! Colombia is a bit more expensive than we first anticipated, but still a relatively cheap country to travel in. Colombian people are, in general, super friendly. There is an increased police presence to make you feel safer, but don’t push your luck.

>> Our Colombian highlights <<

Colombia - Complete Travel Guide & Travel Tips
Comuna 13 in Medellin

Brief History of Colombia

Colombia has a bloody history, hard to forget. It has been for many, many years synonyms of war and violence. First the political war between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the paramilitaries that lasted close to 50 years and seemed to have reached an end in the last couple of years. Then, Colombia became the biggest supplier of cocaine in the world which originated the drug war that took place in the decades of 80’s and 90’s. Cartels were formed, being the biggest leader the well-known Pablo Escobar. The flow of cocaine out of Colombia was so big that Pablo Escobar was the 7th richest man in the world (according to Forbes) with a personal wealth of over 20 Billion dollars. This drug war killed several thousands of people and Medellin was even elected as the most dangerous city in the world.

Even though it is recent past, those dark days are gone! Colombia still has a long path to go, but it is finally on the peace path. It is safer than ever to visit Colombia. It’s a country on the rise at a fast pace, economically and politically. And feel that sense of victory not only in the energy in the air but also in people’s faces.


Read also: Ultimate Travel Essentials: 3 things you can’t forget for your next trip


Colombia General Stats

  • Population: 48,7 million
  • Capital: Bogotá
  • Languages: Spanish + indigenous dialects
  • Religion: Christianity (mainly)
  • Time Zone: GMT- 5
  • International dial code: +57
  • Life expectancy: ~75 years 
  • National Day: 20 July
  • Voltage in Colombia: 220 AC 50 Hz
  • Currency: Colombian peso (COP) 
  • Borders: Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Panama
Colombia - Complete Travel Guide & Travel Tips
Santa Marta (North Colombia)

Colombia interesting facts

  • Colombia is the country with more public holidays in the world (18). 
  • 2nd most biodiverse country in the world. 
  • The notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar once offered to pay the country’s debt of ~13 Billion Dollars.
  • Medellin was once the murder capital of the world with 17 murders per day in 1991.
  • Elected the world’s happiest country in 2013 and 2014. (Source: Colombia Reports)
  • The only country in South America with both Caribbean and Pacific coast.
  • Home of Caño Cristales, a river with 5 different colors. 
  • 3rd world’s largest coffee exporters.
  • 5th country in cosmetic surgery.

Watch our Colombia best moments in this short video


Top Colombia Travel Tips

  • Colombian fruit is absolutely EPIC. Search for local markets or street vendors. A huge variety of fruits (some you probably don’t even know) that will taste like heaven.
  • Colombia is a very big country, don’t try to explore it all. It’s better to focus on areas than spreading too much. If you don’t have much time, stay close to the Caribbean.
  • Colombian people have a unique energy and normally are very kind! Connect and interact with locals, your experience will get way better.
  • Colombia is safer than you think but not a safety heaven. Keep yourself smart
  • Colombians are crazy about “rumba” (party). From taxis to clothes shops and markets… The party atmosphere is everywhere! Embrace it and have fun 🙂 
  • Transportation apps like Uber, Beat or Cabify are illegal, but still, the safest and easiest way to move around the big cities. (Act like the driver is a friend).
  • Urban art in Colombia is great and has a revolutionary meaning. Many neighborhoods fought misery through street art.
  • Colombia is becoming a very popular country in South America. Touristic places are often very crowded. In high season, book your accommodation in advance. To avoid this, do a deeper research and planning to visit less popular places.
  • Colombian vendors are normally honest people, but you can bargain almost everything! Save a bit here and there and your trip will become substantially cheaper.
  • Don’t contribute to the drug tourism. Colombia is way much more than that.
  • Tap water is not drinkable. Get your own bottle with a purifier and save money while helping the environment.
  • Be a responsible traveler. Make your trip ecologically positive to Colombia!
  • Get a Colombian SIM card for fast data almost everywhere (“Claro” has the best coverage).
  • The weather can be tricky. Be prepared for rain, humid airs or extreme heat. Colombia also has many mountains where you’ll also find very cold weather.
Colombia Travel Tips
Santa Marta (North of Colombia)

Entry Formalities in Colombia [Visas]

The big majority of nationalities only need a valid passport (with at least six more months of validity) and get a 90-day tourist visa on arrival. Some nationalities will need a visa before arrival. 
An onward ticket may be required when entering the country. 


Learn more about the Visa restrictions of Colombia here.


Related: Is Travel Insurance worth it? Everything you need to know


Best time to travel in Colombia

Colombia is a very tropical country. Temperatures don’t vary much during the year, varying more with altitude than with season. Plus, is a gigantic country, which means that the weather can be horrible in one part and perfect in others.

However, best weather happens in the summer or dry season, which is between December and March. These are the most popular months to travel in Colombia, which makes the prices to be at their highest. It’s also when most festivals happen, including the Barranquilla Carnival that some consider to be the second best in the world after the one in Rio de Janeiro. 

October and November are the wettest months and generally bad to visit Colombia because the rain can be drastic. However, these are the best months to visit the Amazon.

July to October are the best whale-watching season in the Pacific coast. 

Best time to travel in Colombia
Mística Island Hostel in Isla Palma, San Bernardo Archipelago

Best places to visit in Colombia

Colombia is insanely big and has a huge diversity. There are points of interest for every taste spread by its territory. We couldn’t explore the entire country, but these are the most popular places to visit

Cartagena & Caribbean Coast (North)

Cartagena

We advise you to check this colonial city with a very colorful old city, as well as this artistic neighborhood: Getsemani. If you happen to be in Cartagena on a sunday, head to this neighborhood’s square (Plaza de la Trinidad) at 7pm for the biggest zumba class you will ever see!

Best places to visit in Colombia
Plaza de la Trinidad

Guajira

Where the desert meets the Caribbean sea. Guajira has unique landscapes and is home to the biggest indigenous community of Colombia. 

Santa Marta

A not-so-cool city but in great location. Close to the iconic Parque Tayrona, the peaceful jungle in Minca and the historical trekking in Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) in the gigantic mountains of Sierra Nevada!

Best places to visit in Colombia
Parque Tayrona

Capurgana & Sapzurro

The closest point to Panama, Capurgana is a beautiful fisherman village with its own Caribbean paradises! It’s also the only way to get to the unbelievable San Blas islands in Panama from Colombia.


Read also: 7 Types of Accommodation for different Travel Styles


Medellín, Coffee Region & Santander (Center)

Medellín

The most dangerous city in the world in the 90’s, Medellín is today, for many, the best city in Colombia! Clean, safe, developed and with unique energy in the air. We loved Medellin and you’ll love it too. We recommend you to stay at Laureles’s neighborhood, it’s safe and full of life but not the most touristic place.

Best places to visit in Colombia
Famous Comuna 13 in Medellín

Jardín

A lovely small town in the coffee region, full of colors and surrounded by waterfalls and coffee plantations. 

Salento

The most popular colonial town in the coffee region. Great opportunity to learn everything about coffee and a gate to the popular Valle de Cocora.

Valle de Cocora

One of the most iconic places in Colombia. Epic landscapes, beautiful nature and wildlife and the gigantic wax palm trees that can be up to 60m tall!

San Gil

Is a city in Santander with beautiful scenery but known for the many adventurous sports it offers.

Barichara

One of the most beautiful colonial towns of Colombia, also situated in Santander. A great alternative to San Gil if you want a more romantic vibe. 

Guatapé

One of our favorite places. Guatapé has the most beautiful lake we’ve ever seen. The town is colorful and the scenery around is absolutely insane!

Best places to visit in Colombia
Guatapé lake and views

Bogota & Around (Center – East)

Bogota

The capital of Colombia with unfriendly weather at 2600m of altitude. Not a very popular place for backpackers but still the most visited city in the country.

Caño Cristales

Also known as the most beautiful river in the world. This special river located in the region of Meta has 5 colors due to the plants underneath and the sun exposure.

Zipaquira

A very popular salt cathedral with several statues and crosses carved out of salt rock. A great day trip from Bogota. 

Mongui

A beautiful colonial village in the Boyacá region. Popular for its hikes with incredible landscapes.

Tequendama Waterfall

A breathtaking waterfall near the city of Soacha. This waterfall is over 130m tall and is right in front of an abandoned and allegedly haunted hotel.


Related: Is Travel Insurance worth it? Everything you need to know


Cali & Pacific Coast  (South)

Cali

The biggest city in the South and the capital of salsa. Learn to dance it and explore the local nightlife. It’s super fun!

Best places to visit in Colombia
Salsa dancing in Cali

Tatacoa Desert

The second biggest arid zone of Colombia, Tatacoa desert offers tranquility and epic scenery.

San Agustin

A lovely small town popular for its archaeological sites, hundreds of characteristic statues and world-class coffee. Also nearby to the biggest Colombian waterfall.

Las Lajas

An epic sanctuary in the extreme south of Colombia. There isn’t much more around but the sanctuary itself may be worth it.

Nuqui

Known for whale watching and surfing, Nuqui is one of the most popular beaches in the Pacific coast of Colombia.

Juanchaco & Bahia Malaga

Both inside the National Park of Urumba, surrounded by beautiful nature and great biodiversity. Also great for whale watching. 

Amazon

We totally recommend you to dedicate some time to the Colombian Amazon. The immense nature, the contact with indigenous people and the impressive wildlife everywhere made Amazon probably the best experience of our whole trip to Colombia. 

The best option is to fly to Leticia, the triple border of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil. From there you have 2 options. One is getting a boat up the Amazonas river and stop in Puerto Nariño (2h) for a more touristic and less authentic touch of the Amazon. 

What we did and totally recommend you to do is to get a proper tour and stay, for some days, with an indigenous community further up the river. There are several tour companies around there, but our top recommendation is Coya Amazon Tours. They provide you an authentic, informative and conscious experience and the revenue goes directly to the community.

Best places to visit in Colombia
Kids from the Coya tribe playing with Miguel on the Colombian Amazon Jungle

Islands

Islas San Andres & Providencia

The most popular Colombian Islands. Absolute paradise but also the most expensive option of the list. Even though they are far north in the Caribbean sea, there are round trips around 70€ from Colombia mainland. 

Islas Rosario

A easier, cheaper and faster option close to Cartagena. It will probably be impossible to find a deserted beach but still a group of beautiful Caribbean islands. You can even do day trips from Cartagena. 

Islas Gorgona

A couple of islands in the Pacific side of Colombia. The only ones in the list. We had no chance to get to these islands as they are not very easily accessible. However they are very known for its biodiversity, especially the marine life, as you can find many whales, sharks, whale sharks, tortoises and more!! 


Related: Is Travel Insurance worth it? Everything you need to know


Islas San Bernardo

Our favorite place in Colombia. An archipelago of 9 paradisiac islands in the Caribbean sea. A hidden treasure still below the tourist’s radar. Accessible by a 2h boat from Cartagena or from the fishermen village of Tolu. Totally worth to spend there some days. We personally recommend you to stay at Mistica Island hostel in Palma Island and/or in Isla Roots in Tintipán Island. 

Best places to visit in Colombia
Mistica Island’s private beach

Watch our best moments in Colombia [Short Video]


Top things to do in Colombia

1 – Visit a paradisiac island (we recommend Islas San Bernardo).

2 – Learn to dance Salsa and explore the nightlife.

3 – Get delighted with the Colombian fruit.

4 – Explore the urban art neighborhoods, especially in the big cities.

5 – Learn Spanish!

6 – Connect with the locals and enjoy their energy.

7 – Explore the Colombian Amazon.

8 – Visit an indigenous community.

9 – Diving, hiking, climbing, paragliding. Enjoy the adventurous world of Colombia!

10 – Colombia produces one of the best coffees in the world. Explore it! 

11 – Keep your eyes open and enjoy the enormous biodiversity Colombia has. 

Things to do in Colombia
Urban Art in Medellin, Comuna 13

Read also: Ultimate Travel Essentials: 3 things you can’t forget for your next trip


Best Beaches in Colombia

We are absolute ocean dependents and everywhere we go we always search for the best beaches. Colombia was no exception! We couldn’t visit them all but here is a list of the best beaches you can find in Colombia:

(Of course, the best beaches in Colombia are in the islands of the Caribbean sea. Let’s start there)

Islas San Andrés & Providencia

These islands in the coast of Nicaragua belong to Colombia! Even though they far in the Caribbean sea you can find round trip flight for about 70€. These islands are absolute paradises with white sands and crystal clear waters. However they are very popular among Colombians and it will be harder to find deserted beaches and the costs are overall higher.

Islas San Bernardo

Our favorite place in Colombia. An archipelago of 9 paradisiac islands only 2 hour away from Cartagena on a speed boat. Each way is around 100,000 COP (~30€) per person. However, if you go through Tolú, a cute fisherman village, it’s only 35,000 COP (~9€). These islands are still under the radar of many tourists and even some locals never heard of them. The islands are still not very developed which make everything a bit more expensive but our experience in these islands was absolutely epic!

Beaches in Colombia
Isla Roots Hostel in Isla Tintipán, San Bernardo Archipelago

Islas Rosario

The cheapest, easiest and fastest Colombian islands to visit in the Caribbean sea. You can easily access these islands from Cartagena, and even though they are very close to the coast and the big metropolis or Cartagena they are still incredible beaches.

Now the best beaches in mainland:

Capurganá & Sapzurro

These little villages are a couple of (almost) untouched paradises. Far north in the border with Panama, these villages are car-free and they are not easy to access! Maybe that’s why they are still so untouched. Beautiful beaches right next to mysterious jungles. It won’t be easy to get there, but it is worth it!

Santa Marta (well… not exactly)

Santa Marta is very popular among travelers, but it is because of its location. One hour away from Santa Marta there is the iconic Parque Tayrona with several beautiful beaches being the most popular El Cabo San Juan which is stunning! Still inside the National Park way closer to Santa Marta is the beach Bahia Concha which was our favorite in the area. You don’t have to enter the Park to get on this beach, so you don’t have to pay the normal 50.000 COP (~15€) fee to the park entrance.

Right after the National Park, there is the Costeño beach which is also popular but the sea is a bit rougher.

Beaches in Colombia
Sunset at Costeño Beach

Guajira

Located in the north end of the Caribbean, Guajira has beaches like no others in Colombia. Instead of jungles surrounding it, it is where the biggest Colombian desert meets the Caribbean sea. Punta Gallinas and Cabo de la Vela are the most popular places.

Nuqui

Nuqui is probably the town on the Pacific coast with the most popular beaches. The only one in this list that belongs to the pacific coast. Even though it is an area where it rains a lot, it is a very popular place for surfers, for those who seek peace and nature off the beaten path. 

Food in Colombia

This is probably the topic that most impressed and disappointed us. In our opinion, the only downside of Colombia. Hard to be vegetarian. Extremely hard to be vegan.

Colombia is probably the richest country in fruits we have ever been to! An incredible variety and quality, especially on the north side. It was basically our diet… Fruit, fruit and more fruit! Search for a local market or wait for the street vendors to pass by and allow yourself to get lost! We personally loved mangos, pineapples, soursop (guanabana in Spanish), avocados, papayas, bananas, etc. But always try new types and new fruits. Seriously, enjoy this tropical blessing of Colombia. Thank us later.

HOWEVER… The Colombia food is mainly based in meat and fried stuff. There are hundreds of different snacks, 90% of each are fried. It’s fair to say, it’s very easy to eat unhealthy in Colombia. 


Read: Is Travel Insurance worth it? Everything you need to know


The regular breakfast is bread with “huevos pericos” (scrambled eggs with tomato and onion). For a typical lunch, ask for “comida corriente” which is a cheap and fast meal (3-4$), normally meat, rice, beans and a salad (sometimes fish is an option). The dinner is the main meal and there are many more options. 

Patacones” or any variation of plantain can be found from appetizer up to the desert. Very typical in Latin America. We love it, it’s delicious

Also very popular in the country are arepas (flat maize cakes cooked on a griddle) normally with cheese and guacamole in the middle. Sweets are filled with arequipe (figs smothered in a gooey brown syrup). Ceviche is very popular on the coast and Bandeja Paisa is the cultural dish in the center of Colombia (some people call it a “heart attack in a plate”).

Food in Colombia

Money in Colombia

ATMs are widely available. Credit cards are common and accepted in many places. If you use a credit card, they will ask you “En cuantas cuotas?” which means “How many payments?”, as the Colombian customers choose to divide the payment in up to 24 months. As a foreign, you should just say “una” (one)

Top Tip – Use Revolut and avoid taxes! (only for European citizens)

Revolut card allows you to withdraw Colombian Pesos from ATMs and make payments without any taxes! Control everything from a Mobile APP and top up your card in seconds (literally). Some banks charge you a couple of dollars per withdrawal, but BBVA and DaVivienda bank allow you to withdraw COP with ZERO taxes

Get your FREE Revolut Card here.


Related: Travel Essentials – 3 things you can’t forget for your next trip


Transportation in Colombia

In cities public transportation is great, cheap and total cultural experience. There is metro, bus, cable car, etc. Taxis or transportation apps are efficient and inexpensive. 

Due to the Colombian Andes crossing the country there are no railways connecting the big cities. However, there are very frequent long-distance buses and flights connecting the major points in the country. Buses used to be dangerous because of the guerrilla activity or armed robbery, but that dropped substantially. Plus it’s the most eco-friendly option.

Transportation in Colombia
Happy Buddha Hostel in Guatapé

Watch our best moments in Colombia [Short Video]


Adventure in Colombia

Colombia is a paradise for those who seek adventure. You can dive and explore coral reefs or climb snowy peaks. Raft down rivers or paraglide over cities. Wakeboard in lakes or surf in the Caribbean. Colombia has so many different activities for you with so many epic landscapes

San Gil gained the reputation of the adventure capital of Colombia. Paragliding, rafting, bungee jumping, canyoning, rappelling and cave exploration are some of the many options available. It is the best option for rafting with several rapids with different difficulties. 


Read: Is Travel Insurance worth it? Everything you need to know


Medellin is also a popular place for adventure activities including mountain biking and paragliding in the valley over the city. 

If you like kiteboarding head for the Caribbean coast in Cartagena, Santa Marta or the islands. However, the main kiteboarding site is in Lago Calima in Cali.

Wakeboarding is great in the epic lake of Guatapé

Adventure in Colombia
Wakeboarding in Guatapé

If you like snorkeling or scuba diving head for the offshore islands, both in the Caribbean and Pacific coast. 

Bucaramanga is the best option for paragliding due to its wind conditions all year round. Medellin is also good!

Health & Security in Colombia

Healthcare in Colombia is generally good, especially in cities. Yellow fever vaccination is advised and it may even be required to get in some remote regions like the Amazon and the pacific coast. Anti-malarial medication should be also considered for these areas. For more info visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Safety and security are still a major concern to whoever visits Colombia. Yes, Colombia can be dangerous! But not even close to what it used to be, 20-30 years ago, or to what probably the “media” tells you. In the last couple of decades, Colombia saw a huge decrease in crime rates and an increase in the levels of security. However, crime still happens…  Common sense and some basic rules may be enough to keep yourself safe. Rules like not walking around after the sunsets or walking alone in unknown neighborhoods. 

Our best recommendation: Travel safe!

Get a travel insurance and avoid getting in trouble. Whether if you are going to explore the adventurous side of Colombia, snorkeling the islands, wakeboarding the lakes or hiking the mountains, or you just want to ensure your technology… Sh*t happens and the last thing you want is not being insured if it does

We always travel with IATI Seguros, for their flexible and affordable plans, big medical and technological coverages, no excess and other perks! 

Get a simulation in this link. It takes 1 minute and has a 5% discount!

Health & Security in Colombia
Traveling with Iati Insurance

Some sources say tap water is drinkable but we never trusted and always opted for our own bottles with a certified filter. This way we saved lots of money in water and also reduced plastic consumption.


Watch our best moments in Colombia [Short Video]


Sustainable Tourism in Colombia

The world population is growing exponentially and there’s more and more people traveling. It’s more important than ever to not only reduce our environmental footprint but also to create a positive impact and raise awareness in the places we pass through.

Don’t be ignorant to think your actions don’t matter, because they do! And they are the only ones you can control. We saw a lot of plastic consumption, we saw a lot of trash in the streets, we saw a lot of lack of education in terms of sustainability. So, if you are traveling to Colombia is your duty to help! Here are some things you can do

1 – Reduce your plastic consumption

This can’t be new to you, but you must avoid plastic consumption, especially the single-use plastic. It’s so easy! Here are some simple things you can do help:
– Shopping? Bring your own bags or backpack with you.
– Ordering a drink? Ask in a glass cup and without straws
– Eating in the streets? Bring clutter from the hostel/apartment you are sleeping in. 
– Drinking water? Get your own bottle with a certified filter and stop buying plastic bottles. 
– Some locals might not understand… “Why don’t you accept a free plastic bag?” Go a bit further and explain to them why

2 – Reduce the consumption of animal products & support initiatives

This might be the biggest problem and also the hardest to be solved. Colombia (and Latin America in general) is a massive producer and consumer of meat and dairy products. It’s cultural. Cows are strong polluters and with the rising demand causes deforestation to rise too. 

We are in no position to tell you what to eat or not. But if this is a concern to you avoid consuming animal products and choose to spend your money on places with animal-free products. That way you will support them, and more options will keep appearing. 

3 – Conscious Experiences

Don’t support experiences, tours or companies that don’t respect the nature or wildlife in Colombia.

Sustainable Tourism in Colombia
Rescued crocodile at Mistica Island in Isla Palma, San Bernardo Archipelago

Costs of Travel in Colombia

Colombia is a big country and the costs vary a bit from place to place, but averagely speaking, these are regular costs: 

Dormitory Bed: 7-15€
Double Room: 11-20€
Public City Bus: < 0.50€
City Average Taxi/Uber Drive: 3-5€
Long-Distance Bus: 20-30€
Fruit (average): ~ 1€/Kg
A meal in Local Restaurant: 3-5€
Western-style Restaurant: 7-15€
Beer at store: 1-1,5€

We lived comfortably but on a budget and, excluding the long-distance buses, we managed to spend only a bit above 10€/day per person


Related: Travel Asia on a Budget – How we only spent 10€/day!


Colombia on a Budget – Tips 

We lived in Colombia for 4 months. And, even though we lived comfortably, we always search for ways to spend less money! (That’s just the way we are 😅)
So here we share with you our tops tips to travel Colombia on a budget

Volunteer work 

Did you know you can get free accommodation (and sometimes food) by volunteering your work? From welcoming guests in a hostel to creating content for social media (like we did the first 2 months in a coliving). You can find these jobs by contacting places directly or, easier, join the Worldpackers community where you can find hundreds of jobs and chose the ones you’d like. Click this link to get 20% off of your first year

Colombia on a Budget - Tips
Volunteering at Flamingo Coworking in Santa Marta, Colombia

Related: How to Volunteer Abroad and Travel for Free


Airbnb

When paying accommodation, Airbnb was the platform that allowed us to spend less money for a reasonable room with privacy. In AirBnb you can search for an apartment with conditions, filter the facilities you want (kitchen, hot water, etc) and read previous customers’ reviews. Sort per price and talk personally with the host. And you get a discount if you stay longer! Get 35€ off in your first booking here.

Cook your own food 

TCHANÃ! Surprise. If you don’t eat out, you save money… Plus, you can control what you eat, and cook the things your own way. We always like to cook most of our meals, and if you want to save money, you should do it too! Plus, if you’re vegetarian/vegan this will be the only way you survive Colombia food 😅.

Fruit

Fruit is not only stupidly delicious and healthy, but it is also super cheap! You don’t imagine how many meals we made just with fresh fruit from the local markets. So many!! And guess what? We would do it again and again! 

Colombia on a Budget - Tips
Street vendor selling yellow pitaya and bananas in Santa Marta

Public Transportation

Don’t be afraid to use public transportation in Colombia. It works perfectly, it is cheap and most of the times it is a cultural experience you won’t forget! Tip: We advise you to use busbud to book your buses in Colombia.

Water Bottles

Buy your own bottle with a certified filter, refill it from the tap and never buy a single plastic bottle in Colombia! Your wallet and the environment appreciate it.

Alcohol

Well you know alcohol is a big enemy for your wallet. However, the party will happen in Colombia anyway! So, instead of buying beers, which cost 1-2€/beer, buy aguardiente bottles, the typical drink (firewater) that is stronger but healthier for your budget. Tip: Mix it with natural juices and is actually really good and cheap!

Bargain, bargain, bargain! 

Don’t be shy. The money is yours, you have the purchase power. Don’t always accept the first price that comes to you. You can bargain almost everything. And if you do cut a penny here and a penny there, in the end, you’ll end up saving a lot of money just to resist the ‘gringo price’

Free Walking Tours 

These tours only happen in big cities and are based on tips. It’s a great way to know better the city you are in and the story behind it and you only pay what you feel fair. We like them not just because they are “free” but because the guides are usually great because they earn depending on their performance.


Read also: 7 Types of Accommodation for different Travel Styles


Essential Apps for Colombia

Smartphones have completely revolutionized the traveling world. Nowadays everyone has a machine in their pockets that are capable of much more than doing phone calls. These are the apps that improved our experience in Colombia and that we know that will help you too:

Google Maps (Android + iOS)

If you don’t use this already, there is something wrong with you 😅. This map app by Google is super up to date and is very precise. An essential anywhere we go.

Maps.me (Android+ iOS)

The best offline map App. Just take a moment to download the map before traveling and you’ll be amazed by the precision you’ll have when out of the internet.

Airbnb (Android + iOS)

Airbnb is the best platform to rent fully equipped apartments. It works worldwide and it was how we got the most affordable accommodation options in Colombia. We absolutely love it and we use it all the time. Click here and get 35€ off the first booking you do with Airbnb

Rappi (Android + iOS)

An absolute essential in Colombia. Rappi is a delivery app that you can use to get a midnight snack, that medicine from the pharmacy or other million things, without leaving your own place. They always have promotions available to get good meal deals.

Uber (Android + iOS) / Beat (Android + iOS)

The top transportation apps around Colombia. Even though they are popular they are still illegal. It’s easier, cheaper and safer to use them instead of a regular taxi, but if you do, go by the driver’s side, and act like is a friend of yours. They can get in serious trouble if they get caught. 

Whatsapp (Android + iOS

WhatsApp is a communication app that is popular everywhere in the world, but in Colombia it’s particularly insane. Everythings works and connects through Whatsapp. 

Google Translate (Android + iOS

Even though we are fairly comfortable with the Spanish language (yup, we are Portuguese!) we always had Google Translate ready to improve our communication or to correct our mistakes

Busbud (Android + iOS

Our go-to tool to book the long-distance buses. It’s easy, reliable and fast. It always worked great for us. 


Related: 10 Instagram Apps you must have to Boost your Instagram


Colombia phrases & good manners

Respect is beautiful. And it is great to see in the local’s eyes how they feel about we respecting their manners and trying to adopt them while we are their visitors. Everywhere we go, we try to behave like a local, so we can take the authentic taste of the place we are visiting. Here is a list of simple things you can adopt in Colombia:

  • Buenos dias (good morning), Buenas tardes (good afternoon), “Buenas” –  It’s polite to greet strangers when you walk into a place or make eye contact crossing each other.
  • Man shake hands, women give 1 kiss to each other on the right cheek as opposite genders do too.
  • Encantado de conocerte / mucho gusto de conocerte” (pleasure to meet you)
  • Gracias / muchas gracias” (thank you / thank you very much)
  • Con gusto” (you are welcome)
  • A la orden” (at your order) – this is a very Colombian saying. It normally means “May I help you?” or “you are welcome” but we heard it in many other contexts. 
  • Con permiso” (with permission or excuse me)
  • Tinto – Colombian coffee

These are our best tips and recommendations after almost 5 super happy months living in Colombia. The list could go on and there are many more things to do and see in this gigantic country, but these were our favorites!

If you haven’t had the chance yet, take a moment to watch our best moments in Colombia [Short Video].

If you’ve already been to anywhere in Colombia and you feel that there is something that shouldn’t be missing in this list, please leave a comment. This will help us and everyone who reads! We really enjoyed our time on this Latino country and we really hope you enjoy yours too!

Share with someone who might be interested in visiting Colombia!

With love,

Matilde and Miguel



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