There are many beautiful parts of Colombia. Large, breathtaking natural areas, deserts, jungles, and even unique and colorful cities.
Unfortunately, Colombia isn’t all perfect. Like every country, there are parts of Colombia that experience darker events, such as crime. Knowing what to be prepared for when traveling is a great way to stay safe and have the best time during your stay.
Colombia Has a Bad Reputation for a Good Reason
Columbia has gotten a lot friendlier in recent years. However, it had a bad reputation around the world for drug smuggling and crimes from drug cartels. That crime has gone down, but there are still problems in the country.
There was also a 50-year civil war, and tensions are still high in some areas.
When you go, you may find that police and military are everywhere throughout the country. Unlike in the United States, when police and soldiers walk around in force, it isn’t because a situation is going on. They are just there to make sure that no issue occurs and that people are protected.
It is worth mentioning that both drug smuggling and the civil war are sensitive topics for the people of Colombia. It is best not to bring them up in casual conversation.
Overall, the country is a lot safer now, but like when visiting any country, it is best to be on the safe side, on the lookout for theft, and to know where the dangerous areas in the county are so you can avoid them.
Colombia Is Large
Colombia may not seem that large at first, but it is still the 4th largest country in South America. It consists of just under 450,000 square miles and over 50 million people.
This is important to note when planning your trip. You may want to travel all over the country, but it likely isn’t going to be possible. To make the most out of your trip, stay focused on one area of the country. This reduces your time spent traveling from one place to another and lets you get the most out of your trip.
It Is Worth Learning Some Spanish
While a lot of hotels, restaurants, and major cities speak a decent amount of English, if you are going to be traveling around to a lot of smaller areas or using public transportation, it is worth learning some Spanish before you go. This makes your trip much richer, as you can talk to and learn from locals and understand the language being spoken around you.
There’s no need to be perfectly fluent, but learning some important phrases and common words can help you out. It is also worth noting that the Spanish spoken in Colombia is slightly different than that spoken in Spain.
If you know another language besides English and Spanish, you may also find that someone in Colombia can speak it. Colombia has well over 100 spoken languages in the country.
Credit Cards Won’t Get You Far
Again, there are major areas that accept credit cards, especially those that cater to tourists. However, outside of those tourist areas, cash will get you the furthest.
Make sure you transfer plenty of money before traveling so that you are prepared for any circumstances. You never want to find yourself without enough cash and get yourself into uncomfortable situations.
Thankfully, US dollars are worth far more than Colombian pesos. Though the cost of the pesos is going up, it is still relatively low. At the time of writing this, one US dollar was equal to 3,764 Colombian pesos.
This means that by bringing only a couple of hundred dollars in cash, you may be easily able to pay for most meals and trinkets.
Have Your Hotel Call a Taxi for You
As we’ve stated, though Colombia is growing much safer, there are still many problems. Some of those are problems that every tourist destination is known for, such as theft and scams.
With taxis, if you find yourself getting into the wrong one, you may be dragged to an ATM and forced to pull out a large amount of money.
If possible, it is always best to have your hotel or restaurant call a taxi for you. They know the right number and this will reduce the chances of the above. If you hail one down on the street, you are never quite sure who you will get.
They Export Most of Their Coffee
When you think of Colombia, one of the first thoughts you may have is of their Colombian coffee. While it is a country that is heavy with coffee drinkers (even children drink it there), most of their high-quality coffee is exported. What they usually drink is a strong, bitter mixture with a lot of sugar, known as Tinto.
In Tinto, the coffee is usually of poor quality, giving it a strong, bitter flavor. Often, sugar is added without you asking for it. If you want cream, you may find yourself out of luck.
When you go to a cafe to get coffee, you may be surprised to find it not much different than the coffee you get back in the states, unless you go to an area that specifically brews high-quality Colombian coffee.
Understand Vaccine Requirements
Currently, Colombia has no vaccine requirements before coming to the country. However, some tourist sites, such as Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park, require you to have a yellow fever vaccination.
For these places, you need to have the vaccine up to 10 days before visiting these locations. If you are planning to visit the country, it is worth getting the vaccine before traveling to avoid any issues you may encounter. Otherwise, you can check out a list of areas where you need a yellow fever vaccination to avoid them in your travel plans.