Some tips for those who want to travel to Colombia
– Budget enough money, Colombia is not as cheap as Peru or Ecuador.
Travelling solo I spent about COP 90,000 (US$45) per day on average (preparing some of my own breakfasts); travelling with my girlfriend I spent about COP 115,000 (US$57) per person per day on average (including two domestic flights, some souvenirs and good meals).
I / we used hotel rooms with private bathrooms in basic hotels to mid-range.
– Long distance buses are about US$2.50 or more per hour; hotels in the big cities are even more expensive than in small towns (prices compare to Spain).
– Bus and hotel prices are negociable! Always ask if they’re able to offer a better price.
– “Bolivariano” buses cost a bit more but save you at least an hour journey time as opposed to cheaper companies, because they stop less frequently along the way and they have better buses that can go faster.
– Take your time when you need to get cash and count on needing to find different ATMs before one accepts your card.
It was sometimes hard to find an ATM that would accept my Dutch debit card (Maestro, ING bank). Even if it had a Maestro sticker. Some banks accepted my ING bank card, but not my girlfriend’s Rabobank card. If your card doesn’t work, try the ATM of another bank. Sometimes I could take out a maximum of COP 300,000, sometimes COP 700,000, but I could do a few transactions in a row.
Banks might charge fees as high as COP 9,500 (US$5) per transaction.
– a useful website: www.colombiafacil.com (you can print a guidebook for free)
– Colombia news in English: www.colombiareports.com
– Colombia has many different climates so bring a variety of layers to combine according to the temperature.
– Always add an hour. If someone tells you it’s 5 hours by bus, it’s at least 6. If someone says it’s a 20 minute walk, it’s an hour and a half.
– Outside the big cities the Colombian food is quite monotonous and fast-food-like: chicken, fried trout, hamburger… sometimes soup. Stay in hotels with a kitchen if you want to be able to prepare your own meals with more fruits and vegetables than the Colombian cuisine offers.
– Never leave anything on a table, chair or in your hotel after leaving. The staff will not have ‘found’ it…
– Toilet visits almost always cost money (US$0.30 or more). This doesn’t mean they are clean or provide (free) toilet paper. Always have some pieces of toilet paper with you.
– Learn some Spanish before you go. More people speak English than in other Latin American countries but still not that many people.
– Of course, use the safety precautions you would use in any Latin American country, especially in the big cities. Hide valuables, don’t flaunt wealth, be sensible after dark. You know.
– Don’t let horror stories about Colombia scare you. Talk with the Colombian people. In general they are extremely friendly, mellow and funny.
Some fun facts about Colombia from www.colombiafacil.com:
“DID YOU KNOW THAT COLOMBIA…
… has 1 of the happiest populations (listed in 3rd place of the HAPPY PLANET INDEX in 2012 after Costa Rica & Vietnam),
…has the 2nd largest population of any Spanish speaking country in the world (after Mexico)
… is the 4th largest country in South-America (after Brazil, Argentina & Peru)
… is 1 of the richest countries in the world in biological & cultural diversity
… is home to the Victoria Amazonica plant (which is similar
to a water lily & has huge leaves that are strong enough to carry a child)
… it is 1 of the largest coffee producers in the world
… has a coastline that streches more then 3.200 km (2.000 mi)
… is 1 of the countries with the most public holidays a year
… has the world’s longest continental mountain range the Andes, running down through the whole country
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